The Perils of Punditry
Pundit credibility – the accuracy of prognosticators – is the subject of a well-written paper from Hamilton College. The statistical analysis is particularly impressive. WC recognizes that the study has its critics.
Here’s the abstract:
We evaluated the predictions of politicians, journalists, and pundits (collectively, “prognosticators”) over a 16-month period surrounding the 2008 United States federal elections. We sought to test the accuracy of these predictions and understand what makes individuals unusually good or bad at prognostication. We evaluated a random sample of Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation transcripts and printed columns from the most prominent American prognosticators. Ultimately, we determined that some prognosticators are significantly better than others, and there are characteristics that significantly impact a prognosticator’s predictive power.
(Yes, WC had read the criticisms of the study, including the situational bias favoring liberal commentators. It might explain Krugman; it doesn’t explain Thomas.)
For WC, there’s good news and bad news. The paper finds that WC’s favorite columnist, Paul Krugman, is by a considerable extent the most accurate predictor of events, getting 16 of 18 predictions right. Good writing and high levels of accuracy; what’s not to like?
More good news: liberal pundits are by a considerable margin more accurate than conservatives. Of course, Cal Thomas (correct only 1 time out of 16!) single-handedly pulled down the conservative score.
On the other hand, lawyers were by far the worst profession at predictions. Ouch.
WC makes no predictions regarding the accuracy of this essay.