FiveThirtyEight’s Election Delivers the Data-Based Politics you Crave, Now in Podcast Form

FiveThirtyEight’s Election Delivers the Data-Based Politics you Crave, Now in Podcast Form

Caitlin LambThursday,11 February 2016

Now that the hurdles of the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primaries have been passed, election season is in full swing and that November date will be here before you know it. The new season has brought with it an onslaught of political podcasts, from Huffington Post’s Candidate Confessional to Futuro Media Group’s In The Thick, to Vox’s The Weed’s. But FiveThirtyEight’s Election podcast is a different spin on political commentary; the parent company’s opinion poll analysis that made it so popular is now being delivered via an audio show.

It’s important to note that this show is still in its first few weeks of life. Their plan is to deliver weekly episodes to be released each Monday, with special shows occurring on the days of election-relevant events. The show is definitely host-heavy, with four hosts, including Clare Malone, Harry Enten, Jody Avirgan, and Nate Silver. Avirgan leads the show, but for the most part, they each share equal talk time. The group works well together, mixing jokes into what could easily become a very dry report. The only topics covered so far have been the New Hampshire Primary, the lead up to the Iowa Caucus, the Caucus itself, and a Friday checkup that covered the Trump-less debate, updated the poll forecast and discussed what listeners needed to know leading up to Iowa. But going forward, the team has promised to discuss polls, issues, voters and media coverage sprinkled with the occasional field report, interviews and even collaborations with other shows. There’s a lot of potential there, and the show has delivered so far, so this could turn out to be an entertaining hit.

This isn’t FiveThirtyEight’s first podcast attempt, and the quality of the show itself is excellent. That being said, with four hosts and four opinions, overlap does occasionally occur and ends up drowning out everyone’s voices. The hosts don’t wander far in their debates, and they keep the content moving along. Even for someone prone to losing interest ten minutes into anything, the mix of debate and data analysis and the changing topics held my interest. But as we all know, the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary are what get the ball rolling, so going forward the true test will be how they handle the easily over-discussed topics that will be popping up week after week. They have my attention now; to keep it they will have to navigate how to talk about the same topics in new ways from show to show.

In the introduction of the episode titled “Your Guide to the Iowa Caucuses,” Avirgan cites what he calls page one of “Podcasts for Dummies” when he states that you should “try not to make a podcast that has a shelf life of like four hours,” which is exactly what they were about to do. But when it comes to the elections, the expiration date for any piece of information is always close by. With the number of political podcasts continuing to climb, FiveThirtyEight’s only hope is that their ability to deliver data-focused political news, a feat not tackled by many, if any, podcasts on the web today will push them ahead of the race.

Criteria Scores: Entertainment Factor: 10/10. Sound Quality: 8/10. Conciseness: 10/10. Engrossing: 8/10. “Je ne sais quoi” factor: 7/10. Overall score: 8.6/10.

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