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Frequently Asked Questions

How do FiveThirtyEight's Pollster Ratings work?

How this works: FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings are calculated by analyzing the historical accuracy of each firm’s polls along with its methodology. Accuracy scores are adjusted for the type of election polled, the poll’s sample size, the performance...

Why does the 538 model fluctuate so much?

Their model fluctuates, often irrationally, with each new poll that comes in. Underlying this is an overly complex and opaque set of assumptions that are probably too smart for their own good. If you go to the updates page on the 538 website, [3] you can see how each new poll or set of polls moves their probabilities.

Does 538 have a fatal flaw?

This is all to say that something, perhaps many things, in 538’s model have some serious, if not fatal flaws. Perhaps Nate Silver can say that he’s gotten all of these improbable outcomes because of his use of the t-distribution rather than a normal distribution to accentuate the tails of the model.

What is the difference between 538 and Real Clear Politics?

For example, Real Clear Politics takes all polls averages to develop a score, whereas 538 uses weights on each poll based on demographics and much more. One can argue this is more accurate and 538’s early track record proved it was.


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