Adam Light was talking to his friends nearly a year ago about the presidential election when they told him, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The 13-year-old said they originally asked him to write an email every week to tell them what was happening in the election. He started sending about a paragraph to eight friends every week, and that list eventually grew to 54 people.
So Adam decided to start a blog, called the Electability Report, and he posts updates on it every Sunday. But instead of just breaking down news stories, Adam took a serious look at polls and started assembling predictions about voting results in the primaries. He’s been doing that for months for the general election, and he’s predicting a win for Hillary Clinton.
Adam’s antics earned him a mention on the Reliable Sources newsletter on Election Day with the caption: “The next Nate Silver?”
The comparison to the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight earned Adam over a thousand page views Tuesday, up from, “my usual four,” Adam said.
“I mean, I probably had about 20 people reading my posts, and half of them couldn’t vote,” Adam said.
Adam’s predictions on Election Day differ from Silver’s. While both have predicted likely wins for Clinton, Silver has given her a likely 302 electoral votes, while Adam has given her 323.
But the longer Adam has been considering polls and assembling his predictions, the more he’s started to doubt Silver, according to Alan Light, Adam’s dad and a well-known music journalist and author who contributes to both Rolling Stone and the New York Times.
“That’s the super rockstar for him,” Alan Light said. “But as the weeks go on, he has doubted some of Silver’s stuff and doesn’t think he’s the gold standard he once was.”
Alan Light said election polling is the latest in a long list of obsessions Adam has tried to master over time. The two – along with Adam’s mother, Suzanne McElfresh, an editor at Everyday Health – live in Manhattan, and Adam’s first project was memorizing all the New York subways.
“Then it was global subways, then Beatles songs, then when he was 5 or 6 he could name all the presidents and the years they served,” Alan Light recalled. “When he studies something he wants to know all of it.”
So when Adam told his parents he was starting a blog on election polling, they weren’t surprised. Adam said he started with FiveThirtyEight, then moved on to teaching himself how to determine if a poll was reliable. He has done that in the general election by looking at errors made in the primaries and by comparing racial makeup of the polls to the area’s population, among other things.
While Alan Light said politics isn’t the “heartbeat of our house” (that’s reserved for music), he and McElfresh are “lifelong Democrats” and said their whole family shares a dislike for Donald Trump.
“I feel like I’ve been a bit too biased for Hillary Clinton,” said Adam, who did phone-banking for both Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Similar to Silver, Adam started with a low likelihood of a Trump win. In his first post, Adam put Trump at a 4 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination under a section called “personal odds,” while Silver put Trump’s chances at 2 percent. He gave Clinton an 87 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
Only time will tell if Adam’s predictions turn out to be more or less accurate than Silver’s. But in terms of being the next Nate Silver? The freshman in high school says he’s not sure about a future in journalism.
“I used to joke I would never become [a journalist], because three of my four grandparents and both of my parents are journalists,” Adam said. “But now I don’t know.”