'Is There a Backlash Against Same-Sex Marriage?'

Stats-genius Nate Silver wonders why he keeps getting it wrong

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As the Atlantic Wire previously noted, 2009 has been a particularly tumultuous year for gay rights, with a succession of same-sex marriage initiatives shot down by voters across the country. The most recent defeat occurred in New York on Wednesday, when the state Senate voted overwhelmingly against a bill that supporters expected to pass narrowly. The surprising defeat prompted 538 liberal blogger and statistics-wunderkind Nate Silver to ask why he failed to predict that voters in Maine would overturn same-sex marriage. Silver analyzed his failure:

This was certainly a disappointing result -- from both a policy and a forecasting perspective -- especially considering that the vote wasn't actually all that close. It's one that's worth a little self-reflection.

There are essentially three conclusions that we might come to in evaluating the model's performance:

1) It was a basically good model that got a little "unlucky";
2) It was a poorly specified model that missed important factors in play in Maine;
3) It was a decent enough model, but missed some sort of national backlash against gay marriage.

Silver says that while the third conclusion is tempting, he doesn't think polling data support it. Is there, in his phrasing, a "national backlash against same-sex marriage?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.