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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

WSJ.com - The Numbers Guy - Evaluating Political Pundits

by CARL BIALIK   
January 6, 2006
 
As 2006 approached, pundits performed the annual rite of making predictions for the year ahead. Scripps Howard's prognosticator expects the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin. The Christian Science Monitor published a forecast that North Korea or Iran will acquire nuclear weaponry. On Fox News, Bill Kristol predicted another Supreme Court vacancy, while Brit Hume's crystal ball saw an acquittal for Lewis "Scooter" Libby. (The Wall Street Journal's New Year's Eve look-ahead to 2006 couched most of its political forecasts with the word "likely.")
 
Such predictions are good fun. But in general, the prognostications of political pundits are about as accurate as a chimp throwing darts. At least that's the finding of "Expert Political Judgment," a new book by University of California, Berkeley, political psychologist Philip Tetlock. From 1987 to 2003, Prof. Tetlock coaxed 284 political experts of all stripes -- academics, journalists and think-tankers from across the political spectrum -- to make specific, verifiable forecasts. He looked at more than 27,000 predictions in all.
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