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Nate Silver on why the polls don’t always add up

With the midterm elections just over two weeks away, those who consider themselves political junkies can’t help but check the latest polls every morning, try though we might to resist the urge.

Interpreting polls can be tricky, sometimes impossible. What do you make of one poll where a candidate is down by six points, and another that has that same candidate down by more than 30? How do you weigh the differences between likely voters and registered voters? Here’s the simplest answer to these and almost all other poll questions: You ask Nate Silver.

Nate Silver is the editor of the much-read, highly respected political blog FiveThirtyEight.com, which you can now find at The New York Times website. Nate Silver is a man who knows his numbers — starting with baseball stats. He correctly predicted that the White Sox would lose exactly 90 games back  in 2007. He then moved on to politics — and came within one point of predicting Barack Obama’s popular vote victory. He joined Need to Know to talk about polls — and why the numbers don’t always add up.