The Inside Agenda Blog

U.S. Election: Keeping the Predictors Accountable

by Daniel Kitts Tuesday November 6, 2012

Editor's Note: Steve Paikin will be talking about the U.S. presidential election live online at 4:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday.

Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner often complains about expert predictions. He even wrote a book about it, called Future Babble. The problem with expert predictions, Gardner argues, is that they're often wrong. Studies have shown expert predictions have about as good a track record as random guessing.

But the infuriating thing about it is that, historically, experts don't get called on their bad predictions. An expert makes a prediction, and if proven right, he or she brags about it and is considered a genius. If he or she gets it wrong, people tend not to remember the false prediction anyway. "Heads I win, tails you forget we had a bet," is how Gardner puts it in this interview:

But there are signs that times might be changing. We've seen evidence of it in recent days, as many American political prognosticators have made their predictions as to who will win Tuesday's presidential election. 

There are always a host of wildly different predictions on election day in the U.S. What's different this time is that at least some journalists are compiling these predictions in handy lists so that, tomorrow, anyone can go and see who got things right and who got things really, really wrong. 

The best one I've seen has been compiled by New York Magazine's Adam Pasick. Ezra Klein's Wonkblog has also compiled a fairly extensive list

So now we can all hold the political prognosticators to account. We'll highlight some of the more boneheaded U.S. election predictions on this blog tomorrow.