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UK Insights

Big Data Calls US election

J. Walker Smith

Executive Chairman

Politics 08.11.2012 / 00:00

White House

How big data helped predict the US election

The biggest winner in the U.S. Presidential election was not the incumbent, Barack Obama. It was New York Times' political blogger, Nate Silver. In this year's tight, fiercely contested Presidential contest, Silver accurately called 50 of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. As a result, Silver's star is rising.

So how does Silver do this? He is not a pundit or pollster, nor former politician or campaign operative. He is a statistician - a quant. He does it by modeling other people's data. Silver is a poll aggregator who uses the polls of other firms as a data stream that he analyzes and models. 

Pundit after pundit incorrectly predicted a Romney landslide. Why? Because of that gut-feel that pundits get paid for. Only one other forecast matched Silver's and that was another poll aggregator. Just like pundits, quants can get it wrong. But when done properly, quants beat pundits every time.

The era of Big Data has arrived, and this is where quants come to the rescue. Their specialty is modeling data, and in a world flooded with data, good, solid quantitative analytics will be table stakes for success. 

Nate Silver's success has changed the face of political reporting by putting quants on everyone's radar. A Forbesnews analysis the day after the election noted three ways Silver has made a lasting impact in politics, ways that are true more broadly as well.

First, quants are now a permanent part of the scene, and they focus on numbers not on presumptions, biases, and rules-of-thumb. Second, quantitative analysis removes much of the mystery that has shrouded elections, marketing and other futures. Finally, expertise is being redefined. Processing, analyzing and modeling Big Data demands a much higher level of quantitative analytics than ever before. Knowing how to handle Big Data will be essential to proficiency and credibility. 

Big Data requires quants who can wrestle it to the ground. Nate Silver showed this off to the world, and now the world is demanding more of this show.

Download the full report below or visit The Futures Company website.

Source : Kantar Futures

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