Zogby vs. Silver

John Zogby's opening salvo at Nate Silver:

To date you have many fans. But the real scrutiny is just beginning and some fans are ephemeral. Here is some advice from someone who has been where you are today.

Don't Create Standards You Will Find Hard to Maintain Yourself. You are hot right now – using an aggregate of other people's work, you got 49 of 50 states right in 2008. I know how it is to feel exhilarated. I get the states right a lot too. But remember that you are one election away from being a mere mortal like the rest of us. We very good pollsters have missed some. They tell me you blew the Academy Awards and your projections in the 2010 U.K. elections were a tad squidgy. So be humble and continue to hone your craft. Be aware that some of your legions who adore you today and hang on your every word will turn their guns on you in a minute. Hey, I have been right within a few tenths of a percent – but you are a probabilities guy and even a 95% confidence level and a margin of sampling error are not enough for some.

Nate Silver's response:

Mr. Zogby, I think you may be mistaking me for my Wikipedia page. I don't really spend a lot of time touting my accomplishments or resting on my laurels — there are no marketing materials of any kind on this site. I'm a process-oriented guy, not a results-oriented guy, because as you mention, there's a tremendous amount of luck involved in making any sort of predictions. In the long run, if an unskilled forecaster gets something right 50 percent of the time, a skilled forecaster might get something right 55 or 60 percent of the time. There are very, very few exceptions to that, in politics or in any other discipline. So when we get something right, we usually just move on with our lives rather than brag about it. And when we get something wrong, we'll usually do a post-mortem and try to figure out if we were unlucky or stupid, but not wallow in self-pity.

Now, I'm certainly not going to pretend that we take an attitude of austere academic humility toward everything that we do. We're happy to engage both our friends and our critics in lively arguments, and we can be sarcastic and combative at times. I have a background in competitive, adrenaline-intensive disciplines like poker, policy debate, and sportswriting, and that attitude has become hardwired by now.

Andrew Gelman also weighs in here.