Some conservatives are upset over the recent disclosure that Nate Silver received internal polling from the Obama campaign during the 2008 election. Most notably Red State launched a scathing attack on Silver’s credibility. Red State produced no evidence of Silver’s accuracy falling short other than a post published in January 2009, which suggested the GOP was taking the wrong approach in Congress.
There is a very simple reason why Silver and Scott Rasmussen (Democrats’ polling boogeyman) are credible. Their reputations hang on being right. Correct predictions are their moneymaker. Disagree with their analysis (at your own peril), but unlike the media fact-checkers, pollsters and election prognosticators have a judgement day every other November. Make a fool of yourself on Election Day and you risk being discredited over the next cycle. Neither Silver nor Rasmussen are willing to sacrifice their professional reputation to make the party faithful feel a bit better during the months leading up to the election.
Granted, Silver should have disclosed that the Obama campaign provided him with internal polls. From the news reports, it appears this would not have broken the non-disclosure agreement. Keep in mind that the campaign approached Silver because they valued his accuracy not the other way around.
The bottom line is that despite having the slightest of Democratic leans, FiveThirtyEight remains the single best predictor of elections available to the media and public at large. Rasmussen, despite having a negligible Republican bias (a mostly mistaken bias due to their use of likely voter samples) is the premier indicator of political trends. We said it once and will say it again. Ignore FiveThirtyEight and Rasmussen at your own peril.