Posted by: Keegan Clements-Housser | October 10, 2016

Political wonkery for the general public


Throughout this election season, Nate Silver’s polling aggregate and political analysis website FiveThirtyEight has been a regular fixture in my daily reading. I’m not exactly alone in my readership, either – the site had 10.7 million unique visitors in February. Presumably that number has only gone up as the campaign season starts to enter its final stretch.

Yet despite that impressive level of readership, it’s undeniable that the statistics found on FiveThirtyEight are intended for the wonkishly inclined. As a result, stories like this one might not be of interest to the general public, despite shedding some potentially telling light on some of the failings of our democratic process.

I explained the story linked above to four people who hadn’t seen it. I also asked what would help them both find and understand it. Brief summaries of their responses below:

  • IT professional (middle-aged): Needs to be on social media in order for him to find it. Source must be authoritative and knowledgeable.
  • Family counselor (elderly): Ideally explained by an expert in a short video. Needs to be on social media.
  • Relative (teenager): Fine as-is, though he felt that there was some partisan bias. Not sure he trusts the author’s expertise.
  • Delivery driver (20-something): Needs to know why or how it’s directly relevant to his life. Length and format is fine.

Interestingly, all four felt an essential part of the story being successful was an expert explaining the topic’s relevance. Good news, traditional journalists: looks like there’s a place for us after all.

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