Thursday, October 21, 2010

Misunderstanding Momentum

Nate Silver of the NYT/fivethirtyeight wants to make sure you have a better comprehension of momentum in a campaign. He uses yet another of his ridiculously thorough studies to prove his point.
Turn on the news or read through much of the analysis put out by some of our friends, and you’re likely to hear a lot of talk about “momentum”: the term is used about 60 times per day by major media outlets in conjunction with articles about polling.

When people say a particular candidate has momentum, what they are implying is that present trends are likely to perpetuate themselves into the future. Say, for instance, that a candidate trailed by 10 points in a poll three weeks ago — and now a new poll comes out showing the candidate down by just 5 points. It will frequently be said that this candidate “has the momentum”, “is gaining ground,” “is closing his deficit,” or something similar.

Each of these phrases are in the present tense. They create the impression that — if the candidate has gone from being 10 points down to 5 points down, then by next week, he’ll have closed his deficit further: perhaps he’ll even be ahead!
Sounds a lot like the Strickland campaign, eh?

Silver continues...
There’s just one problem with this. It has no particular tendency toward being true.
Read the whole analysis here. If you're into polling analysis, it's fascinating.


  1. Momentum is not always good.

    When you drive off a cliff you will gain momentum right up until impact.

    Does Strickland have momentum? Oh yeah - should impact the bottom of the ravine in about 13 days.

  2. Nate's talking about instances in one poll to the next poll done by that outfit. That's not all we've seen in the Governor's race. We've seen MULTIPLE polls show over more than two polling cycles showing the race tightening.

    You're trying to apply what Nate Silver said to a situation his criticism doesn't apply.

  3. Nice try, Modern. He speaks directly to races with many polls:

    In races with lots of polling, instead, the most robust assumption is usually that polling is essentially a random walk, i.e., that the polls are about equally likely to move toward one or another candidate, regardless of which way they have moved in the past.

    In other words, polls can go either way.

  4. Strickland's polling improved in September. It's improved in October. Yep, no momentum here at all. LOL.

    You're getting desparate.

  5. Sometimes I honestly can't tell the difference between what Modern Esquire says and what the people who spoof him say.

    Modern Douche, Modern Assfire, any thoughts? I bet they involve LOL...


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