Cal Thomas and Lindsey Graham Win Worst Pundit Predictor Titles

Thursday, May 05, 2011
Cal Thomas
Just how accurate are the political pundits who appear on television and write regular columns in newspapers? Students in a public policy class at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, studied the predictions of 26 public figures made between September 2007 and December 2008 during the last presidential campaign and its aftermath, either in print or while speaking on one of three major network Sunday news shows—Face the Nation, Meet the Press and This Week.
Four of the talking heads were so bad at predicting that just flipping a coin would have produced more accurate results. The four not worth taking seriously were conservative columnist Cal Thomas of Tribune Media Services, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan). Graham scored 13 correct predictions and 27 wrong, while Thomas was in a class by himself, making 14 wrong predictions and getting only one right. Levin’s record comes with an asterisk because only seven of his predictions could be judged.
On the other end of the scale, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman of The New York Times missed only one prediction while getting 15 right. He was followed by columnist Maureen Dowd, also of The New York Times, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
One noteworthy overall conclusion made by the Hamilton College students: prognosticators who had a law degree were more likely to be wrong than those who were not lawyers.
-David Wallechinsky
Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air?; An Analysis of the Accuracy of Forecasts in the Political Media (by Donaldson, Doubleday, Hefferman, Klondar and Tummarello, Hamilton College)


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