How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next

This is an interesting article from The Guardian on “post-truth” politics, where statistics and “experts” are frowned upon by some groups. William Davies shows how statistics in the political debate have evolved from the 17th century until today, where statistics are not regarded as an objective approach to reality anymore but as an arrogant and elitist tool to dismiss individual experiences. What comes next, however, is not the rule of emotions and subjective experience, but privatised data and data analytics that are only available to few anonymous analysts in private corporations. This allows populist politicians to buy valuable insight without any accountability, exactly what Trump and Cambridge Analytica did. The article makes a point how this is troublesome for liberal, representative democracies.

 

Predictions for Presidential Elections Weren’t That Bad

Nathan Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has had an excellent coverage of the US Presidential Elections with some great analytical pieces and very interesting insights in their models. Each and every poll predicted Hillary Clinton to win the election and FiveThirtyEight was no exception to that. Consequently, there was a lot of discussion on pollsters, their methods and how they – again after “Brexit” – failed to predict the outcome of the election. There are many parallels between the elections in the US and the Brexit-vote in the UK. At least for the US, however, the predictions weren’t that far off. And FiveThirtyEight in particular, gave Trump better chances than anyone else:

For most of the presidential campaign, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Trump much better odds than other polling-based models. Our final forecast, issued early Tuesday evening, had Trump with a 29 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. By comparison, other models tracked by The New York Times put Trump’s odds at: 15 percent, 8 percent, 2 percent and less than 1 percent. And betting markets put Trump’s chances at just 18 percent at midnight on Tuesday, when Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, cast its votes.

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