What Nate Silver Hath Wrought

Philip Klein points out how “political coverage has moved from feverishly covering horse race polling, to hyping up daily fluctuations in predictive models of which party will control the Senate after 2014”:

Political news abhors a vacuum, and when trying to appeal to a broader audience, it’s inevitable that journalists will boil everything down to the question of “who is going to win?” Data journalism isn’t changing that. All that’s changing is that people are freaking out over fluctuations in statistical models instead of just daily polls.

And the election results won’t tell us which model is superior (at least not yet). John Sides makes that clear:

I will be pleased if our forecasts are correct — especially in races like North Carolina, where early predictions based on the underlying fundamentals were somewhat controversial. And some models might end up performing better in this particular election. But evaluating forecasting models will require many years of elections, not just November’s.

But you could say that this is simply a natural extension of greater and greater sophistication and data processing than anything we’ve done before. So why be surprised that we’re just as OCD now as we were before? We’ve just got more tools to work obsessively – as the interwebs try to capture your attention every second of the day.