When are Political Pundits not Really Pundits?
Why, when they’re full of hot air of course.
In this paper, we report on the first-ever test of the accuracy of figures who made political predictions. We sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major newspapers and/or appeared on the three major Sunday television news shows (Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week) over a 16 month period from September 2007 to December 2008. Collectively, we called these pundits and politicians “prognosticators.” We evaluated each of the 472 predictions we recorded, testing it for its accuracy. Based on an analysis of these predictions, we answer three questions:
Which prognosticators are most accurate? We found wide disparities in the predictive accuracy of these individuals, and we divided them into “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Which characteristics are associated with predictive accuracy? We examined the effects of age, education, ideology, and other factors on accuracy.
What is the purpose of media pundits? We discuss whether the ordinary citizen should look to pundits for deeper analysis of events, or whether pundits are simply a more enjoyable way to learn about the events of the day. We also consider alternative viewpoints, including the notion that pundits are useful as representatives of opposing points of view in the country, and the idea that they are simply entertainers.