You have to keep the poll numbers about voter preferences separate from the predictions about who would win. The predictions were based on a separate statistical analysis than the poll numbers themselves. If an organization like RealClearPolitics averages out a bunch of polls and finds that Hillary is preferred by 48% to 46% over Trump, that’s one fact that suggests Hillary will win. But then they do another analysis to find out what Hillary’s chances of winning are, given that she’s ahead in the polls by two points. That’s the 90% number you’re referring to — the probability that Hillary would win, based on the final polls. That probabilistic prediction is not necessarily wrong even if Hillary loses. It just means Trump hit on a 1-in-10 chance, which happens on average in about one out of every 10 elections where someone is a 90% favorite. No one said Hillary definitely would win; they only said she was heavily favored to win. This is a basic fact about probability that you seem to be misunderstanding. You can’t point to Trump’s unlikely win as evidence that the original poll numbers were not accurate. One has nothing to do with the other. (FiveThirtyEight actually had Hillary as only a 67% favorite, and at the time I thought that was way off. But maybe they were more accurate, and Trump only hit on a 1-in-3 shot, which wouldn’t be surprising at all.)

I said it looked like you weren’t thinking clearly because you used a lot of exaggeratedly emotional language in your first response. The second one was a lot more measured, so I appreciate that. I come from a philosophy background, which means I never take a discussion personally. Philosophy professors rip each other apart when they argue, but they never make it personal, because it’s all about ideas. And the fundamental rule is that you have to support your positions with hard evidence. You came with evidence the second time, although for the reasons above I don’t think you can draw the conclusions you were aiming for.

I believe we all deserve some basic level of respect from each other as human beings. Beyond that, you’re not required to respect anybody who doesn’t earn it. I aim to earn the respect of everyone who engages with my writing, by treating them with respect as individuals and responding thoughtfully and fairly to their claims. If I haven’t succeeded this time, then I’ll welcome the chance to try again the next time you come across one of my articles.

May the best argument win. And let us shake hands when it’s done.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store