According to political (and sports) statistics maven Nate Silver, as of four minutes ago, Hillary Clinton was 79.6 percent likely to win the presidential election, compared to Donald Trump, who was 20.4 percent likely to win. The full workup is here.
I’m not an expert on who is an expert on this, but I do believe Silver has established himself as one of the tops.
I assume this percentage breakdown makes some of you feel better about things, others not so much. For me, it makes me want to warn against thinking that anyone — even Mr. Silver — can see the future in matters like this, nor does he claim to. I’m sure he can justify his numbers, but if you actually listened to his justification, you would conclude that he isn’t making a “prediction,” he’s making an estimate of likelihood, based on things he thinks he knows, and leaving room (but, in this case, not a whole lot of room) for the possibility that things he doesn’t know will happen and will change the outcome, or not even really “change” the outcome, since it never happened, but bring about a different outcome from the one he thought most likely back in June.
I look at poll numbers quite often, much more often than is healthy. I can’t help it. They are something like drugs to an addict. I try not to write about them too much, not only because I know they don’t really tell the future and can only estimate the present within a margin for error so large that in most cases they don’t even really claim to measure who is ahead.
This is more than just statistical pettifoggery. History — even the relatively short history of polling — is rife with presidential candidates who were behind by more than Trump is behind in current polling and nonetheless won. But also, the time you (and I) spend obsessing on the latest poll numbers is time we could be spending with our friends and families, helping our communities, working for remuneration or even deepening our understanding of how our dear ol’ country and our world got to the place that it is in right now and how it might get to a better place. I highly recommend any of those alternatives.
And now, if you can spare me for a minute, I’ll just take a peek at the just-updated, Real Clear Politics log of the latest polls. OMG. The top one, by Rasmussen, has Trump ahead by 4 points. The next one, taken in the same country at pretty much the same time, by Public Policy Polling, has Clinton up by 4.