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Statistics, big data and neutral mathematical models are the big winners of #Election2012

Tanya Goodin
Tanya Goodin
7 November 2012

After months of anticipation, over 31 million tweets, one million votes and weeks of campaigning, Barack Obama, beat Romney (did we ever doubt it?) to be re-elected US President for four more years. No surprise for this ‘Twitter election’, as the results were announced, the tweet stream went into frenzy, hitting a peak of 327,452 Tweets per minute. What did Obama do first upon hearing the news? He took to Twitter, posting this:

Tweeters from all over the world fell over themselves to congratulate Obama first.

But, more importantly for followers of all things digital,  Nate Silvers called it. He’s the guy behind political calculus @FiveThirtyEight. A ‘simple’ algorithm forecast model, that works by running simulations of the electoral college, which are designed to consider the uncertainty in the outcome at  the national level and in individual states. One of many statistics-based formulas for predicting such events but the one that has grabbed the lion’s share of media attention. He successfully predicted the correct results in all 50 states.

As Mashable said this morning “Statistics, big data, neutral mathematical models — this, it turns out, is what people want. Who knew?” Well, we who have worked in the land of the Google algorithm for the last 15 years knew the power of the mathematical model all along, welcome to our world.

Of course the real news was that Obama beat Justin Bieber to be the holder of the ‘most popular tweet of all time’ record. Since posting, his “four more years” tweet has been RT’d  531k times (and counting) with 180k favourite-ing it. Anyone that beats the Bieber gets my vote.



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