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For Columnist, a Change of Tone

A New York Times columnist has expressed substantially more negative sentiments about FiveThirtyEight since it left The New York Times, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.

The columnist, Paul Krugman, who writes about economics and politics for The Times, has referred to FiveThirtyEight or editor-in-chief Nate Silver 33 times on his blog. FiveThirtyEight classified each reference based on whether it expressed a favorable, unfavorable or neutral sentiment toward FiveThirtyEight.

Date FiveThirtyEight’s Status Sentiment
9/10/08 Independent Neutral
9/11/08 Independent Neutral
10/17/08 Independent Favorable
6/22/09 Independent Favorable
1/20/10 Independent Favorable
4/1/10 Independent Favorable
8/8/10 Independent Unfavorable
4/13/11 NYT Favorable
7/14/11 NYT Favorable
9/11/12 NYT Favorable
9/26/12 NYT Neutral
9/30/12 NYT Neutral
10/25/12 NYT Favorable
10/27/12 NYT Neutral
10/28/12 NYT Favorable
10/30/12 NYT Favorable
11/3/12 NYT Favorable
11/4/12 NYT Favorable
11/4/12 NYT Neutral
11/6/12 NYT Favorable
11/7/12 NYT Favorable
11/7/12 NYT Favorable
11/8/12 NYT Neutral
11/10/12 NYT Favorable
11/21/12 NYT Favorable
11/27/12 NYT Favorable
11/30/12 NYT Favorable
1/22/13 NYT Unfavorable
8/5/13 Dormant Neutral
3/18/14 ESPN Unfavorable
3/18/14 ESPN Unfavorable
3/23/14 ESPN Unfavorable
3/26/14 ESPN Unfavorable

FiveThirtyEight was an independent blog prior to joining The New York Times on Aug. 25, 2010. Mr. Krugman referred to FiveThirtyEight or Nate Silver on seven occasions during its independent period. Four of these mentions were favorable, two were neutral, and one was unfavorable.

During FiveThirtyEight’s tenure with The New York Times, Mr. Krugman referred to FiveThirtyEight or to Nate Silver 21 times. Over all, 15 of these references were favorable, as compared to five neutral references and one unfavorable one.

But Mr. Krugman’s views of FiveThirtyEight have changed since it re-launched March 17 under the auspices of ESPN. The columnist has mentioned FiveThirtyEight four times in just nine days, all in negative contexts. (Mr. Silver has frequently criticized what he calls “pundits” and “opinion journalists,” including those who write for The Times.)

To be sure, the difference in Mr. Krugman’s views could reflect a decline in quality for FiveThirtyEight. The web site has brought on almost two dozen new employees and contributors. And it has expanded its coverage beyond politics into sports, economics and other areas.

While it can be easy to extrapolate a spurious trend from a limited number of data points, the differences are highly statistically significant. At his current pace, Mr. Krugman will write 425 more blog posts about FiveThirtyEight between now and the 2016 presidential election.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.