As the FiveThirtyEight staff recovers from a hectic year of news, we’ve been reflecting on our favorite stories from the past 12 months. What follows is not a comprehensive list of our best work, but it is some of what has lingered in our minds as we get ready for 2018.1
Our editor in chief, Nate Silver, started the year like many others: trying to make sense of the 2016 presidential election. He wrote a dozen essays about what happened, including entries on President Trump’s superior Electoral College strategy, the media’s probability problem and “the Comey letter.”
This summer, Kid Rock was rumored to be the next celebrity to follow Trump’s path into politics. But the poll that started the buzz came from a shady corner of the internet and may not have been conducted as advertised. Harry Enten went down a rabbit hole and found that fake polls are a real problem.
When Trump was a candidate, he often noted that the electoral system was rigged because so many noncitizens were registered to vote. But the evidence that Trump cited when making claims of voter fraud didn’t show what Trump said it did. Maggie Koerth-Baker investigated how an academic paper became a keystone of the Trump administration’s allegations of voter fraud.
After about half a year of the Trump presidency, Julia Azari came to a striking realization: Trump is a 19th-century president facing 21st-century problems.
The media’s coverage of the Trump administration has been filled with stories that employ anonymous sources to discuss what’s happening in the White House. Not all anonymous sources are created equally, though. Perry Bacon Jr. put together a guide for when to trust a story that uses anonymous sources and which anonymous sources are worth paying attention to.
As the Democrats seek to take back Congress in 2018, David Wasserman wrote about their uphill climb: The congressional map is historically biased toward the GOP.
Trump’s rise to power inspired a huge following in some corners of the internet. In March, we profiled one of the president’s most rabid fan clubs: a subreddit called “The_Donald.”
As the Supreme Court deliberates partisan gerrymandering, Galen Druke has been profiling the problems with redistricting reform efforts: Partisanship always finds a way back in.
Trump’s contentious back and forth with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was a defining story of the summer. As the heads of state traded threats, Oliver Roeder wrote about how game theory can be used to win a nuclear standoff.
As stories about sexual assault and harassment inundated the fall, Clare Malone noted that nearly all of them were about people in white-collar industries. That prompted her to investigate whether the #MeToo moment will reach women in low-wage jobs.
Anna Maria Barry-Jester spent much of the year covering the Republicans’ efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. But she also looked beyond Obamacare. In April, she wrote about how patterns of death in the South still show the outlines of slavery, and in June, she wrote that the health care system is leaving the southern Black Belt behind. In conjunction with those stories, Ella Koeze created an interactive map that shows 35 years of American death data.
After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, there was some debate over whether stronger gun laws lead to less gun violence. But just looking at correlations between gun laws and violence isn’t enough, Jeff Asher and Mai Nguyen wrote, because guns can cross state lines even when gun laws don’t.
When the FBI released its first crime report under Trump, Clare Malone and Jeff Asher noticed something: It was missing a ton of data, and the agency’s explanations for why didn’t add up. FBI Director Christopher Wray now says the data will again be released to the public.
This hurricane season was relentless for the U.S., with several major storms causing major damage. If Hurricane Sandy is any indication, the recovery from that damage is not going to be quick. Julia Wolfe and Oliver Roeder used FiveThirtyEight’s longest chart ever to show that New York City is still getting calls about Sandy recovery.
After the U.S. men’s national soccer team broke our hearts with the worst loss in the history of U.S. men’s soccer, we went looking for another squad to support. It’s not like us to just pick things at random, so we designed a quiz that helps you find the World Cup team you should root for.
Despite never playing a snap in the 2017 NFL season, Colin Kaepernick dominated the conversation around football this year. As Kaepernick went unsigned in the offseason, Kyle Wagner and Neil Paine investigated whether it was Kaepernick’s skills that were to blame. It wasn’t.
As the 2016-17 NBA season came to a close, FiveThirtyEight’s NBA team made the case for five different MVPs, including the eventual winner, Russell Westbrook.
One of the runner-ups for MVP, James Harden, has bloomed over the past few years into one of the league’s best players. Chris Herring noted one of Harden’s many quirks: He’s great at drawing fouls behind the 3-point line.
Nate Silver is tired of baseball closers being used only as ninth-inning specialists. So, to help get more of a team’s best relievers in the game earlier, he created a new stat: the goose egg, which tracks which relievers are the best at putting out fires when the stakes are highest.
People are still trying to figure out why there are so many dang home runs in baseball now. Rob Arthur continued his investigation into the home-run surge, and the evidence points to the balls being juiced.
Speaking of those home runs, midway through this MLB season, there had been 56,785 home runs hit since the start of 2006. Neil Paine and Rachael Dottle charted how far those home runs would have traveled if you put them all together (4,280 miles) and which MLB player’s bombs traveled the furthest.
For years, the Bechdel Test has been used to evaluate whether a film is invested in its female characters. But the Bechdel Test is an imperfect measure of Hollywood’s inequalities. So Walt Hickey, Ella Koeze, Rachael Dottle and Gus Wezerek canvassed Hollywood in search of a new one and watched 2016’s 50 top-grossing movies to see how they stacked up.
Is your Dungeons & Dragons character rare? Gus Wezerek went spelunking to tell you whether you’re basic in your selection of a goliath paladin.
If you’re still searching for that perfect margarita recipe, Walt Hickey, Nate Silver, Christine Laskowski and Tony Chow have you covered.
If one of your 2018 resolutions is to get better at spelling bees, we have the perfect guide for you. (It’s harder than it looks.)
In February and March, FiveThirtyEight’s science team explored Mars. As part of that series, Christine Laskowski and Maggie Koerth-Baker noted why sex is one of space’s final frontiers.
When Maggie Koerth-Baker wasn’t writing about space sex, she was writing about panda sex. In November, she wrote about Pan Pan, the panda who was so good at sex that he helped save his species.
The Trump administration has reshaped the nation’s science agenda, and Republicans are often demanding that researchers provide “sound science” to substantiate their claims. Christie Aschwanden wrote about that term and why the easiest way to dismiss good science is to demand sound science.
Dan Engber went to rural Oregon to find the grandfather of alt-science. His name is Art Robinson, and his contrarian views about things like climate change have found their way into powerful circles in Washington.