Merry Statistician's Christmas!

Thu 08 November 2012 | -- (permalink)

My advisor told me today, in a fit of excitement and enthusiasm, that "the real winners in this election were statisticians."  (He later went on to joyfully declare, "Man, I LOVE being a statistician!"  The guy is living the dream.)  According to him, today is statistician's Christmas.  What a great metaphor!  Check it out: all year long, we predict and model and analyze and see if we can figure out what will happen.  Everything goes down on Tuesday night, and we wake up Wednesday morning to the best gift of all: the real data.  And this lets us figure out how well our models and predictions and analyses did.

This year, the stat nerds did awesome.  Nate Silver (of fivethirtyeight) is Mr. Popular in geek circles right now.  Should Florida officially go Obama, he will have predicted every state's vote correctly.  That's really hard to do, since so many factors influence how people vote and not all of them are measurable, but man, he and some other awesome people rocked it.  Check out this amazing Twitter hashtag it spawned. 

It's also kinda cool to look at the data visualization stuff that comes after elections.  I "watched" a lot of the election coverage on Huffpost - their state-by-state graphics were really nice.  I liked the interactive parts - e.g., how hovering over a dot on the county scatterplot told you which county it was.  On another note, the main way we visualize US election data is with the results map, where states are colored red if they went Republican and blue if they went Democrat.  This caused my roommate (who isn't from the US) to comment "That map is looking pretty red...Romney must be winning?"  And that's the problem with the election map - big, unpopulated, 3-vote states are usually red.  NPR did some fun stuff that addressed this issue by making the sizes and colors of states on the map a bit more informative.

So, merry stat-mas to all!  Enjoy the peace and quite of the election being over.

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