Nate Silver vs. the Pundits: Examining the Roles of Political Punditry, Big Data and Cognitive Dissonance in a 2012 U.S. Presidential Election Dispute


  • Stan Ketterer Oklahoma State University
  • John McGuire Oklahoma State University
  • Shane Hoffman Oklahoma State University



This study examines the role of political punditry at a time when Big Data is playing a greater role in campaign journalism. It focuses on the dispute between data journalist Nate Silver and the pundits over his predictions during the 2012 U.S. presidential election. A qualitative content analysis is used to assess the online commentary in the weeks before the election. Silver’s supporters touted his statistical approach while critics questioned Silver's methods and cited their own gut feelings about the campaign’s outcome. When the election results vindicated Silver, most pundits resolved their cognitive dissonance by declining to give him any credit. The research suggests pundits not only favored their own party in their predictions but also tried to keep uncertainty about the elections results alive and bolster the value of their work. This research not only suggests a new method for covering America’s political process, but adds to our understanding of politi


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