Tuesday, October 28, 2008

File under: I wish I'd thought of that

I'm officially in love with fivethirtyeight.com, the presidential election website run by baseball statistician Nate Silver. Operating under the tagline "political polling done right," he has applied a fantasy sports enthusiast's love of number-crunching to the upcoming ballot, examining the various polls and statistics, and arriving at some interesting conclusions.

In particular, his thoughtful, intelligent analysis of why the various polls are wrong (and let's not forget that to a greater or lesser degree they are all wrong) makes you wonder why we pay attention to any of them in the first place. For example, there's the simple fact that most modern polling companies don't call cell phone numbers, despite the increasing numbers of voters who don't have a landline.

Even better, the site is about much more than mere stats, and includes some excellent on-the-ground first-person reports from campaign battlegrounds around the country. Because these stories aren't the site's main feature (and because this isn't a traditional news website), they tend to be more anecdotal, subjective, and, frankly, interesting than much of the coverage coming out of the traditional news media that I've seen. Just read this provocative story about a racist couple who say they are voting for Obama if you don't believe me.

Best of all, it's all put together by just a handful of people (there are only two credited writers -- even if there are more "backroom" people involved now, I'm guessing there's probably no more than about five total). Note to self: must come up with an idea like this one...

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