When he was a sophomore, Harry Enten ’11 spent an hour and a half each day composing daily weather reports, interspersed with personal anecdotes and commentary about his day. He emailed them out each day to friends, professors and other community members. His passion for statistical analysis, whether used in weather forecasting or political commentary, was nourished at the College and will inform his work as the lead writer for politics on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.
FiveThirtyEight was formerly a blog licensed to The New York Times, but will relaunch in a partnership with ESPN in 2014. Under the new association, the blog will transition into a data-driven website that will cover politics and elections, as well as sports, economics, technology and culture.
“This move to Nate Silver’s platform is just unbelievable for somebody just out of Dartmouth,” government department chair John Carey said. “Nate Silver is probably the biggest name right now in the kind of news analysis that Harry does, and to be their chief political analyst is just huge.”
Enten, who is leaving The Guardian, said he decided to make the move to FiveThirtyEight because he liked Silver’s focus on applying nonpartisan analysis of numbers to politics and other stories.
“The Guardian is a larger sort of news organization that encompasses a lot of things,” Enten said. “I want to be a part of something in which the kinds of things I’d be discussing would be the main focal point.”
Enten began writing for The Guardian six months after graduation, when an editor of The Guardian’s U.S. website came across a post Enten had written on his blog Margin of Error, which he started in 2006. During his junior year at the College, Enten began regularly posting statistical and electoral analysis as part of an independent study with former RWIT executive director Karen Gocsik.
Before long, Enten’s posts were being reposted and referenced by bloggers and journalists, including Silver, who responded on FiveThirtyEight. His predictions for the House of Representative midterm elections, posted on Feb. 21, 2010, went viral. Enten continued to maintain his blog while interning for The Huffington Post’s poll aggregator Pollster.com during the spring and summer of his junior year.
“One of the reasons why he’s been able to get both of the jobs that he got is that even when he was just a student, he just started doing the job that he wanted to have, which is online analysis,” Carey said.
Enten, a government major, said he appreciated how flexible his professors were in allowing him to pursue his own interests in their classes, even when the subjects were not directly related to his coursework. In an independent study with women’s and gender studies professor Michael Bronski, Enten investigated the accuracy of polling in same-sex marriage referendum measures. Bronski said Enten enriched class discussions by incorporating his interest in politics.
Government professor Michael Herron said Enten was a strong presence in class discussions.
“I would say in terms of his engagement, he was a couple of standard deviations above the mean,” Herron said. “He was in the right tail.”
Government professor Dean Lacy described Enten as an inquisitive, opinionated and confident student.
Outside of class, Enten was also involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, College Democrats and the Elections Planning and Advisory Committee. As head of EPAC in 2011, Enten introduced two changes in student government: approval voting and barring students with previous suspensions from running for president or vice president of Student Assembly. Approval voting now allows students to vote for as many candidates as they would like, as opposed to requiring them to rank all candidates. Not all students were pleased with these changes, and Will Hix ’12 was disqualified from running in the 2011 Assembly elections after the changes were enacted.
Former classmate Malina Simmers ’11 said Enten was very personable, and followed his own path.
“He’s not out there just to be a people-pleaser — he’s not a yes-man,” Simmers said. “If he doesn’t agree with you, he’ll make sure you know he doesn’t agree with you.”
Enten hopes to continue writing and branch out to different forms of media. He said he decided not to go into academia in part because of the limits of the academic audience.
“Getting my voice out there is important to me,” he said. “Academia is a great place, but how many years does it take to publish a paper? For me I’d rather write something, get it out there, let people see it and judge for themselves whether it’s a good thing or bad thing.”
Enten graduated summa cum laude with a degree in government, concentrating in statistics and elections. He still sends out his weather reports, which he has expanded to cover major cities and include more than 330 subscribers. Anyone interested can receive his forecasts by sending him an email.