During my obsessive period prior to the latest Presidential Election, I read a lot, but I came to trust one view of the world: FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s brilliant blog, started as a vehicle to predict the outcome of the 2008 election. He is a statistician (of the highest order, not an econometrician, but a baseball statistician — they’re the ones that really have to get it right).
Rather than conducting polls, he pumped polling data from numerous sources into his own models that accounted for the bias, trends, methods and other factors the skew polling data, then posted his results with an unapologetic liberal viewpoint. He seemed to correctly predict most outcomes of that election.
For a moment after the election, he wondered aloud what he would do now that the election was over. But it quickly became clear that his work was not done — he called the tight senate race in Minnesota well before others, and has done a lot of other cool stuff since. Nate Silver has a knack for presenting dense statistical data in a clear and useful way.
I read a post of his from several weeks back, in which he analyzed the results of a poll on people’s views of on climate change. Here’s a graph from his results, showing a very, very important result: we don’t think global warming will affect us (even if it will affect everyone else):
His assessment is simple:
Advocates of cap-and-trade may need to find ways to personalize the terms of the debate.
I encourage you to read his post on this topic; his conclusion is appropriately impassive and pragmatic.