The Election Could Go Either Way

Gelman assesses Romney's chances:

I can simultaneously (a) accept that Obama has a 72 percent chance of winning and (b) say the election is too close to call. What if the weatherman told you there was a 30 percent chance of rain — would you be shocked if it rained that day? No. To put it another way, suppose Mitt Romney pulls out 51 percent of the popular vote and wins the election. That doesn’t mean that Nate Silver skews the polls (as is suggested by this repulsive article at, which, among other things, criticizes Silver for being thin and having a soft voice). Romney winning the election with 51 percent of the vote is well within the margin of error, as Silver clearly indicates. That’s what too close to call is all about.

But, as psychologists like Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic and Amos Tversky have shown, people aren’t so good at thinking about probability and uncertainty. I struggle with this every day, and I can only imagine how difficult this sort of thing is for non-statisticians.