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The 2009 Creativity 50: Nate Silver
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While his passion for baseball has proved a thriving space for his stats expertise, 30-year-old Chicago native and numbers wizard Nate Silver found a new arena to hone his analytical skills in 2008: politics. A managing partner of website Baseball Prospectus and inventor of MLB forecasting system PECOTA, Silver threw his hat in the political ring during the presidential campaign with FiveThirtyEight.com. The site is named after the total number of electoral votes and tracks, collects and analyzes poll data on a daily basis and was a regular stop during the presidential campaign for election and polling junkies. "It was a coincidence, but my interest was peaked in the presidential campaign," says Silver, an admitted Obama supporter. "Campaigns like Obama's are very data-driven. It's not a coincidence that he was spending his time in a certain state, certain city and on a certain day during the campaign and where they were allocating their resources. So we were trying to bring that more quantitative perspective to politics and compile different polls that were a bit more sophisticated." Silver uses compiling methodologies like regression estimates, poll weighting and election simulations, and says working the election polls was especially tiring. "At first, during the spring and summer, you might get two or three new polls, but by the time we got within a few weeks left in the campaign, literally you would get 30 polls coming out a day. It became 24/7, 365 days." Now that the election's over, Silver says he'll apply his statistics and economics know-how to more timely issues on FiveThirtyEight.com. "Along with the stimulus package issue, people are viewing the economy like a sports team. It's like 'retail's down' and people feel bad like the Mets lost."
Silver, on the effect FiveThirtyEight.com has had on its audience: "The comment I get from people most often is 'I've read your site and it helped me stay calm during the campaign and I wasn't sweating.'"