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Nate Silver in Reddit AMA Weighs in on Trump, Sanders, Voting Rights

by Alex Gauthier, published

Nate Silver, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of FiveThirtyEight participated in his second AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit, Wednesday. While FiveThirtyEight also covers sports, Silver caught the spotlight in 2012 with laser-like predictive analysis of the POTUS and congressional elections.

His AMA drew over 1100 comments by the end of the day, and topped the Dataisbeautiful subreddit with over 3700 upvotes. Redditors' questions ranged from the silly to arcane, but many focused on the 2016 presidential election and data journalism.

Here are some notable questions and answers:


Can you remember a time where the use of statistics dramatically changed your opinion on something? A scenario where the stats disproved many of your preconceived notions about a topic?


I think people should probably change their mind about things more than they do. Especially in the US we have two major parties that take two unrelated sets of issues and the more "partisan" you become you are likely to have an opinion on gay marriage that correlates with your opinion on tax policy. I guess one example is I was persuaded that Democrats had a majority based on demographics, and now I think the evidence of that is less clear. Politics ebbs and flows over time.


If Fox allowed you to ask one question in tomorrow's debate as payment for your crushing Karl Rove and Dick Morris in data/polling punditry, what would it be?


I would ask whether they support a constitutional amendment that guarantees American citizens the right to vote. There is noting guaranteeing that, which is why it's so often infringed. I've never heard this cause taken up very much, and something that deserves more discussion.


Care to share your personal forecast for the trajectory and outcome of Donald Trump’s candidacy for President on the eve of the first major debate?


I think if you look at what we at FiveThirtyEight have been saying is that the chances are very low that Donald Trump will win. Like 2%. One reason is once you get all those candidates on the debate stage then there are many different stories out there. Most voters aren't political junkies, and other people will start to become more prominent. When you start talking to real voters his numbers decline. All the historical evidence suggests that he's not a Ronald Regan.


What do you think a candidate like him would have to do to be more viable? Is it just a money thing? Is he too fringey?


Yeah, I think Bernie Sanders is not that complicated to diagnose. It's mostly that he's further left than not just most Americans, but most Democrats. It's not a bad thing and I think we're hearing discussions that we wouldn't hear otherwise. You also have some issues about the Democratic Party being concerned about his electability. He hasn't done a good job so far of capturing the black and Hispanic vote so there are some issues like that too. If you had to summarize it with one concept: he's further left than the median voter is in the Democratic Party.

Read the full AMA on Reddit

Image: Nate Silver / Wikimedia Commons

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