Nate Silver’s 2024 Election Model Wildly Diverges From His Former Site FiveThirtyEight

Krista Kennell/Getty
Krista Kennell/Getty

Polling data guru Nate Silver, often trashed for his worst predictions, on Wednesday declared Donald Trump to be the overwhelming favorite to beat President Joe Biden come November.

“The presidential election isn’t a toss-up,” Silver declared on social media—despite the growing consensus of a close race.

Meanwhile, the data site founded by Silver—which he recently exited—doesn’t seem to agree with his model at all: FiveThirtyEight forecasts the race as a “pure toss-up,” with Biden being slight favorite at 51 percent to Trump’s 49 percent, according to current polling. In fact, Biden is “favored to win in 509 out of 1,000 of our model’s simulations,” wrote the site’s editorial director, G. Elliott Morris.

“The rising national tide has lifted Biden’s boat in Michigan and Wisconsin... though Trump still edges him out in Pennsylvania,” Morris explained. “Our model’s current estimate of the gap between the winning candidate’s margin nationally and in the Electoral College is currently D+1.4 points—meaning Biden needs to win the national popular vote by 1.4 points to be favored to win a majority of electoral votes.”

Silver’s assessment of the electoral landscape is remarkably different.

“The candidate who I honest-to-God think has a better chance (Trump) isn’t the candidate I’d rather have win (Biden),” he wrote. “If the Electoral College/popular vote gap looks anything like it did in 2016 or 2020, you’d expect Biden to be in deep trouble if the popular vote is roughly tied. So if we’re being honest, pundits who obsess over whether Biden is 1 point ahead in national polls are kind of missing the point.”

According to Silver’s latest forecast, Trump has a 66 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, while Biden is narrowly favored to win the popular vote. Silver also predicts that independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will negatively impact turnout for the Democratic president.

Silver acknowledged that his own ex-site disagrees with his analysis. “There’s not any one right way to build a model,” he wrote.

FiveThirtyEight was launched by Silver in 2008 as a polling aggregations blog and was acquired by ESPN in 2013 because it covered a broad array of statistics, including sports. Eventually, the property was transferred to ABC News, which is owned by ESPN’s parent company Walt Disney.

Silver has been criticized and mocked for his inaccurate election predictions. In 2016, for instance, his final model claimed Hillary Clinton had a 71 percent chance of beating Trump. (He pushed back against his critics by noting that his forecast showed Trump had a decent chance to win, and was less overtly optimistic about a Clinton victory than others.)

And when the 2020 election turned out to be much closer than expected, with media outlets waiting days before calling the race for Biden, Silver lashed out at those mocking him for claiming Biden had a 90 percent chance of winning.

“If they’re coming after FiveThirtyEight, then the answer is fuck you, we did a good job!” Silver exclaimed.

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