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2018-08-17T03:00:25.600Z
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By Nate Silver and Galen Druke and Nate Silver and Galen Druke  

Our 2018 House forecast is now live! That also means that the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is resurrecting “Model Talk,” in which Nate Silver answers questions about what goes into the forecast and how it’s reacting to new developments. This is the inaugural episode of the 2018 midterm season.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

One of my favorite FiveThirtyEight concepts is the “tipping-point state,” first introduced by Nate more than 10 years ago. A tipping-point state is a literal swing state: the state that swings the result of a presidential election from one candidate to another. For example, if you put all 50 states in order by the margin that separated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, from most Republican to most Democratic, then went down that list and began counting up the electoral votes for Trump, Wisconsin1 was the state that gave Trump his 270th electoral vote — and therefore the White House.

In the same way, the biennial battle for the U.S. House always has a tipping-point district that determines who gets majority control: the 218th-most-Democratic or most-Republican congressional district in the country (in other words, the median district). Whoever wins the tipping-point district wins the House; it’s that simple.

In addition to all its other bells and whistles, our new U.S. House model can help us estimate the chances that any given congressional district will be the tipping-point district, just like our presidential model estimates which states are most likely to be the tipping point for that race. In first place, the likeliest 2018 bellwether: Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. The suburban Minneapolis district went for Hillary Clinton by 9 percentage points in the 2016 election, but it’s home to a strong incumbent in Republican Rep. Erik...

We’ve been publishing election models for more than 10 years now, and FiveThirtyEight’s 2018 House model is probably the most work we’ve ever put into one of them. That’s mostly because it just uses a lot of data. We collected data for all 435 congressional districts in every House race since 1998, and we’ve left few stones unturned, researching everything from how changes in district boundary lines could affect incumbents in Pennsylvania to how ranked-choice voting could change outcomes in Maine.

Not all of that detail is apparent upon launch. You can see the topline national numbers, as well as a forecast of the outcome in each district. But we’ll be adding a lot more features within the next few weeks, including detailed pages for each district. You may want to clip and save this methodology guide for then. In the meantime, here’s a fairly detailed glimpse at how the model works.

Overview

The principles behind the House forecast should be familiar to FiveThirtyEight readers. It takes lots of polls, performs various types of adjustments to them, and then blends them with other kinds of empirically useful indicators (what we sometimes call “the fundamentals”) to forecast each race. Then it accounts for the uncertainty in the forecast and simulates the election thousands of times. Our models are probabilistic in nature; we do a lot of thinking about these probabilities,and the goal is to develop probabilistic estimates that hold up well under real-world conditions. For instance, Democrats’...

Quarterback Chase Daniel is guaranteed to make at least $7 million over the next two years playing football for the Chicago Bears. But Daniel is unlike most of the NFL signal callers who lock in that type of money: There’s a very good chance he won’t actually be playing football.

Teams usually deal with the backup quarterback position in one of two ways: Invest in young talent to push the incumbent starter to a higher level of play — and potentially usurp the starter down the road — or hire a veteran with a dad bod to effectively be another coach with a clipboard, providing mentorship and game-management advice. Daniel is certainly the latter. And yet, after a season in which a backup quarterback hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and another brought his team to the NFC Championship Game, the position is unquestionably important.

It also might be the best gig in the NFL. The backup QB is the player who sees the least amount of time on the field — and has an infinitesimal chance of injury — while still cashing a hefty paycheck. In nine seasons as a professional, Daniel has started two games and attempted 78 passes. To put that in perspective, Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger attempted 66 passes in a single game last season.

But what the 31-year-old Daniel lacks in experience, he makes up for in income. Perhaps no player in the history of the sport has monetized the position of...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


$3.30 per avocado

Thanks to low harvests, there is an avocado shortage in New Zealand. Thanks to the laws of supply and demand, the price of avocados has skyrocketed to $3.30 per avocado. And thanks to the depths of human nature, a wave of thefts and a thriving avocado black market have emerged. In response, one avocado tree in Auckland was surrounded by razor wire. [The New York Times]


72,300 overdose deaths

According to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdoses killed more than 72,300 Americans last year. That’s a record, and an increase of 10 percent from the year before. As The Upshot has observed, that number is more than the death tolls of H.I.V., car crashes or guns. [The Upshot]


8.3-inch gap

In the NBA you’ve got your unbelievably tall guys like your centers, and then your just regularly tall guys like your point guards. But the gap between those two have never been smaller. Only 8.3 inches separate the average center from the average point guard, the smallest gap ever and down more than 20 percent since the 1990s. This trend could spell trouble, my colleagues write, for players like the 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas. [FiveThirtyEight]


20 years old

Earlier this week, Ronald Acuña Jr., an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, hit leadoff homers in both games of a doubleheader. He’s also homered twice on back-to-back days, homered eight times...

Of all the shocking NBA free-agency moves this summer, Isaiah Thomas’s deal with Denver — for just one year, at the minimum salary for a veteran player — might have been the most telling, in terms of where the league is heading.

This time last year, Thomas — one of the NBA’s most underpaid players even then, at just over $6 million — was saying openly that the Celtics “know they’ve got to bring the Brink’s truck out,” a reference to the nine-figure max contract he felt he deserved. And on some level, it would have been difficult to argue with him. At 28 years old, the diminutive point guard was coming off a banner season in which he finished fifth in MVP voting while averaging almost 29 points per game (on one of the league’s best true shooting percentages) and led the Celtics to the East’s best record.

It’s no secret that much of the market collapse for Thomas’s services stemmed from questions about the torn labrum in his hip, which cost him months of rehab time before he ever suited up for the Cavs, then required surgery in March (while he was playing for the Lakers). But it also appears that the ever-changing NBA flipped its script entirely just before Thomas could cash in on a deal that scorers of his caliber generally get. The about-face highlights the fear teams have about committing big money to someone as short as Thomas,...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


More than 300 priests

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has released a nearly 1,400-page grand jury report that listed more than 300 Catholic clergy accused of sex abuse and more than 1,000 child victims. It’s the most comprehensive investigation into Catholic Church sex abuse in the U.S. to date. [The Washington Post]


More than $12 million

It’s Wednesday, which means that another Tuesday, and another election day, is in the books. In Wisconsin, major GOP donors and their big money battled in the most expensive Senate primary of the year. More than $12 million in outside money was spent in the race between State Sen. Leah Vukmir — backed by the state party and the billionaire Diane Hendricks — and businessman Kevin Nicholson — backed by Republican “megadonor” Richard Uihlein. Vukmir won the nomination and will face Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. [Politico]


$2 billion lawsuit

Some founders and executives of Tinder, the dating app, have filed a $2 billion lawsuit against Match Group, its owner. The suing Tinderites allege that Match manipulated data to deflate a valuation and stripped people of stock options, and that its CEO engaged in sexual harassment. Match said in a statement that the allegations are “meritless.” [TechCrunch]


15 endorsements, 15 wins

My colleagues, in partnership with ABC News and Ballotpedia, have been taking a close look at the data underlying the 2018 primary election season. Most recently, they explored hundreds...

cwick (Chadwick Matlin, features editor): Summertime, and the livin’ is really freaking hot. People are jumping into the sea in Greece to avoid wildfires. The temps are higher than they’ve ever been in Japan. California is dealing with the biggest wildfires it’s ever seen. The heat even has Andean flamingos laying eggs for the first time in 15 years.

The consequences of climate change are growing more undeniable than ever. Which leads me to wonder: What now?

Christie and Maggie, thanks for joining the Slack chat to answer that totally simple question.

christie (Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer): “simple” question

cwick: Editors pride themselves on asking giant questions and demanding simplified answers.

maggiekb (Maggie Koerth-Baker, senior science writer): Glad to be here, Chrad.

Chad

cwick: Off to a great start, Meggie.

maggiekb: I pride myself on my typing skills.

cwick: I want us to try tackling the question in a few different ways:

  1. By talking about the politics of climate change, of course.
  2. By discussing whether the dire reality of climate change means that scientists’ roles in public discourse ought to change going forward.
  3. And by answering the question of what comes next: Are all these ecological changes the new normal or just a waypoint on an even more dangerous trajectory?

christie: This is a lot to chew on. I didn’t realize we were going to be here all day!

cwick: So...

Research by Ballotpedia and Roey Hadar, Lee Harris, Adam Kelsey, Adia Robinson, Meena Venkataramanan and Johnny Verhovek of ABC News.

This story was produced in collaboration with ABC News and Ballotpedia.1

Two of the three Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidates who were on the ballot last Tuesday lost their primary races — Abdul El-Sayed of Michigan and Brent Welder of Kansas were defeated, while fellow Kansan James Thompson advanced to the general election. Not surprisingly, commentators were quick to proclaim that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is flaming out in 2018 primaries.

The debate over whether progressivism is the way forward for Democrats didn’t start this year. It’s been raging at least since the 2016 presidential primary,2 when Sanders’s formidable run demonstrated the popularity of progressive policies like Medicare for all. But now that we’re more than halfway through the 2018 primary season, we can get a more conclusive reading of where Democrats are heading. As we described in our first installment in this series, FiveThirtyEight, ABC News and Ballotpedia together canvassed the personal and ideological traits of the 811 Democratic candidates who, as...

When last we left the NBA, the Golden State Warriors were wrapping up their third championship in four years and staking their claim as perhaps the game’s greatest dynasty. Then a bunch of players switched teams, including LeBron James (to the Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (to the Raptors), FiveThirtyEight stat-namesake Carmelo Anthony (to the Rockets) and DeMarcus Cousins (to — who else? — the Warriors).

Now that the league has settled into a period of relative calm with a little more than two months to go before opening night — and now that the full season schedule has been released — we thought we’d run an early preseason version of our CARM-Elo team ratings and season projections.

A few notes before we get to the numbers: The depth charts that drive the projections are from ESPN.com, up-to-date as of Aug. 9. We didn’t scale the raw Elo ratings to an overall league average of 1505 (it’s about 1514 instead), so the ratings you see are very slightly inflated relative to what they will be when we do our proper projections in the fall. (But the average number of wins across the league does come out to a 41-41 record.)

Now that all that’s out of the way, here are our way-too-early, extremely preliminary 2018-19 projections:

Peer into CARM-Elo’s NBA crystal ball

Early projected standings and playoff chances for the 2018-19 NBA season, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo model

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


11 years old

Last week, at the hacking convention DEFCON, 11-year-old Emmett Brewer hacked into a replica of Florida’s election website, changing its voting results. It took him less than 10 minutes. When I was 11, “Mario Kart 64” had just come out, so yeah, that’s sort of what I was up to. [PBS]


50 eye diseases

Google’s DeepMind, after tackling chess and Go, has helped develop a deep learning AI system that can identify more than 50 eye diseases from 3D scans and recommend treatment. Despite this apparent improvement in diagnoses, I didn’t even know there were more than 50 eye diseases, and thus my dread level has increased. [The Verge]


$289.2 million

On Friday, a California jury found that Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killers were a “substantial danger” to consumers, ordering their maker, Monsanto, to pay close to $300 million to a man with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Studies have produced mixed results about whether glyphospate, the weed killers’ active ingredient, causes cancer. Shares of Bayer, which bought Monsanto in June, dropped sharply on the news, and this case is reportedly “the first of many.” [The Wall Street Journal]


3-run walk-off uncaught third strike

The most beautiful thing about baseball is that despite how many damn games there are, you can still always see something you’ve never ever seen before — and sometimes a thing that no one has seen before. Case in point: The...

It’s Rivalry Week on the primary circuit! This Tuesday, Gophers and Badgers will compete for your attention with eight competitive races between them, while voters will set the stage for choosing their next governor in Connecticut and Vermont, which, um, I’m sure have some dispute over fall foliage or something. Bone up on the primaries to watch this week and, as usual, be sure to join us for our live blog on Tuesday night.

Vermont

Races to watch: Governor
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern

These election-night previews try to focus on how primaries might affect the general election: Are parties nominating their strongest candidates? Usually, though, differences in candidate quality are pretty minor — enough to move a race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican,” for instance. But the Republican primary for Vermont governor is the once-in-a-blue-moon primary that could have the maximum possible impact on the general election: A bad result for the GOP could move this race all the way from “solid Republican” to “solid Democratic.”

Gov. Phil Scott, a centrist Republican stock-car driver, was once one of the most popular governors in the country — beloved by Republicans, Democrats and independents. But then, in April, he signed three historic gun-control laws, drawing fierce protests from residents of this traditionally pro-gun state. In a Morning Consult poll conducted after the signing, Scott’s popularity among Republicans dropped by 26 percentage points, and he now has a -15 net approval rating with voters of his own...

By Micah Cohen, Nathaniel Rakich and Jody Avirgan, Micah Cohen, Nathaniel Rakich and Jody Avirgan and Micah Cohen, Nathaniel Rakich and Jody Avirgan  

What kinds of candidates are Democrats nominating to compete this fall? Meredith Conroy joins the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast crew to discuss an analysis of hundreds of Democratic candidates for House, Senate and Governor. The crew also rounds up the latest elections news from Rep. Chris Collins’s decision to suspend his campaign to the ongoing vote counts in Kansas and Ohio.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us...

When Brooks Koepka outdueled Tiger Woods (and Adam Scott) to win the PGA Championship Sunday afternoon, he joined an exclusive group of golfers with three career major championships to their name. In all of golf history, going back even past the days of Tom Morrises both young and old, only 46 players have ever won three majors. Fewer still have won three in the span of 14 months the way Koepka has, having captured the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens on top of his win at Bellerive Country Club this weekend. Koepka may still have trouble getting recognized by the general public, but he is getting plenty of recognition in golf’s history books.

One weird thing about Koepka, though, is that he hasn’t really done much winning outside of golf’s most prestigious events. Other than that pair of U.S. Opens and this recent PGA Championship win, the only official PGA Tour event Koepka has won was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. You don’t have to win a ton of events to make a good living in golf, of course. Koepka has done plenty well for himself, earning nearly $20 million in official money and ranking among the top 20 in FedEx Cup points for four years running. But it’s still striking how much of his success has been concentrated in major championships.

Since the PGA Tour was founded, only two golfers with at least three career major wins — Henry Cotton and Peter...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


811 candidates

As of Aug. 7, 811 people had appeared this year on ballots in open Democratic primaries. My colleagues, in partnership with ABC News and Ballotpedia, gathered data on every single one of them, to see what was making these Democratic races — and Democratic primary voters — tick. Among many other findings: Women won 65 percent of the races that featured at least one man and one woman. [FiveThirtyEight]


100s of counter-protesters

“Fewer than 20” white nationalists showed up for the second “Unite the Right” rally, in Lafayette Park outside the White House, a year after the chaotic and tragic event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Meanwhile, hundreds of counter-protesters turned out in Lafayette Park, and thousands more overall. [NBC News]


$141.5 million

“The Meg,” an expensive Hollywood killer-shark flick with a confusing name and 48-percent green splat on Rotten Tomatoes, was a surprise hit at the box office, earning $141.5 million in its opening weekend (domestically and abroad). Issues of accounting for taste and whether or not it can be done aside, that is already enough to put “The Meg” eighth on the all-time “Shark” genre list, according to Box Office Mojo — right below “Jaws 3-D” and right above “47 Meters Down.” [The New York Times]


264 strokes

Brooks Koepka — 28, from Florida — held off a resurgent Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship, the final major of the golf season....

The nightmare is easy enough to imagine. Nefarious baddies sit in a dark room, illuminated by the green glow of a computer screen. Meanwhile, technicians watch in horror from somewhere in the Midwest as they lose control of their electrical systems. And, suddenly, hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans are plunged into darkness.

That scene was evoked in recent weeks as federal security experts at the Department of Homeland Security warned that state-sponsored hackers have targeted more than American elections — they’re after the electric grid, too. They’ve gotten “to the point where they could have thrown switches,” a DHS official told The Wall Street Journal. Both DHS and the FBI have linked these attacks to Russia — which was already pinned as the culprit in two attacks that shut down power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine two Decembers in a row, in 2015 and 2016. It’s all very urgent — a high-risk crisis that must be solved immediately.

But, surprisingly, some electrical system experts are thinking about it in a different way. Cyberattacks on the grid are a real risk, they told me. But the worst-case scenarios we’re imagining aren’t that likely. Nor is this a short-term crisis, with risks that can be permanently solved. Bringing down the grid is a lot harder than just flicking a switch, but the danger is real — and it may never go away.

Representatives from two nonprofit organizations — both of which play...

References Engsoccerdata / Opta / Transfermarkt Harmonic mean / Massey’s method / Monte Carlo method / Poisson process / Ranked probability score
The Details We first published FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer predictions in January 2017 with six leagues. Since then, we’ve steadily expanded the number of leagues we forecast, added features to our interactive graphics, tweaked our predictive model to perform better and published our global club soccer rankings. The forecasts are based on a substantially revised version of ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI), a rating system originally devised by FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver in 2009 for rating international soccer teams. We have updated and adapted SPI to incorporate club soccer data going back to 1888 (from more than 550,000 matches in all) that we’ve collected from ESPN’s database and the Engsoccerdata GitHub repository, as well as from play-by-play data produced by Opta that has been available since 2010. SPI ratings At the heart of our club soccer forecasts are FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings, which are our best estimate of a team’s overall strength. In our system, every team has an offensive rating that represents the number of goals it would be expected to score against an average team on a neutral field, and a defensive rating that represents the number of goals it would be expected to concede. These ratings, in turn, produce an overall SPI rating, which represents the percentage...

The Premier League, which kicks off Friday afternoon, is often regarded as the most competitive league in the world, if not the best. In fact, both of those assumptions might be false: While the Premier League boasts four of the top 10 and six of the top 15 teams in the world according to our Soccer Power Index rankings, only one other team cracks the top 50.9

This imbalance shouldn’t come as a shock: Aside from Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95 and Leicester City in 2015-16, only four teams have won the Premier League since its inception in 1992-93. And if you look at the table for every Premier League season — especially for the past decade — the top six spots are more likely than not occupied by some or all of the same six teams currently ranked in the world top 15.

If you’re hoping that the upcoming season will offer some vicissitude at the top of the table, don’t hold your breath: According to our Premier League predictions, Manchester City is a good bet to repeat as champions. And the five spaces below the Citizens will likely be occupied by — you guessed it! — Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. After we ran 20,000 simulated seasons, the closest any team got to the top six was Crystal...

Welcome to The Riddler. Every week, I offer up problems related to the things we hold dear around here: math, logic and probability. There are two types: Riddler Express for those of you who want something bite-size and Riddler Classic for those of you in the slow-puzzle movement. Submit a correct answer for either,1 and you may get a shoutout in next week’s column. If you need a hint or have a favorite puzzle collecting dust in your attic, find me on Twitter.

Quick announcement: Have you enjoyed the puzzles in this column? If so, I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve collected many of the best, along with some that have never been seen before, in a real live book! It’s called “The Riddler,” and it will be released in October — just in time for loads of great holidays. It’s a physical testament to the mathematical collaboration that you, Riddler Nation, have helped build here, which in my estimation is the best of its kind. So I hope you’ll check out the book, devour the puzzles anew, and keep adding to our nation by sharing the book with loved ones.

And now, to this week’s puzzles!

Riddler Express

From David Nusbaum, a paradoxical navigational puzzle:

Describe where on Earth from which you can travel one mile south, then one mile...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


More than 760,000 competitors

More than 760,000 people entered the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship this year. The winner of the Excel division, claimant to the fantastic title World Excel Champion and surely now the most popular kid in his high school if there is any justice in the world, was 15-year-old Kevin Dimaculangan of Florida. [CNN]


30 percent increase in newsprint prices

The Trump administration’s tariffs on Canadian newsprint have dealt another blow to already staggering local newspapers, forcing cuts in staff and (literally) narrower coverage. Also, by one estimate, U.S. newsprint prices will increase 30 percent over the next year or two. [The New York Times]


82 percent with “warm” feelings

In November 2016, 87 percent of Donald Trump voters had “warm” feelings toward the man, according to a Pew Research Center survey. By March 2018, these numbers had cooled only very little: 82 percent of Trump voters retained warm feelings toward him. For my part, I’ve long been incapable of any feeling. [Pew Research Center]


9-point scandals

In light of the arrest of Chris Collins, the Republican U.S. House member from New York, on charges of insider trading, my colleague Nate Silver looked into how much “scandals” hurt incumbents running for re-election. Quite a bit, it turns out. Since 1998, “scandal-plagued” incumbents won re-election by an average of 21.5 points, but this was compared to a projected margin of victory of 30.5 points....