NY Times election night needle returns for the midterms

NY Times election night needle returns for the midterms
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The New York Times election needle, which has been the subject of criticism, is set to return for the November midterms, according to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).

The online predictive forecast model was particularly the subject of scorn on the night of the 2016 presidential election.


It predicted the morning of Nov. 8, 2016 that Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states California Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate MORE had an 85 percent chance of winning the presidency. Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE lost the popular vote, but won the presidency comfortably in the Electoral College.

The Times itself called the needle "an object of both obsession and derision during the 2016 presidential election" when it was re-introduced  before the Alabama special Senate election in Dec. 2017. 

The CJR report also says that the Times has partnered with Siena College to conduct live polls to allow "audiences to peer under the hood as a call bank of college students tries—and mostly fails—to reach poll respondents in real time."

The Times appeared to set low expectations for the election needle's accuracy in a report earlier this year that cautioned there are too many factors and too much unpredictability for it to be totally reliable.

"Ultimately, it is impossible to prevent the needle from being 'wrong.' It is an inevitability, if the needle is put to work in enough elections," reads the March 13 story. "The challenge is to communicate the possibility of an upset, for as long as the possibility remains. Traditionally, we have used probabilities to do so, but we increasingly doubt whether this helps readers understand the uncertainty."

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.com forecast model currently gives Democrats an 83 percent chance of taking back control of the House, where they need to win back 23 seats, in the midterms. Republicans, meanwhile, have an 80 percent chance of retaining their majority in the Senate.