Economic Pessimism and Political Punishment

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Economic Pessimism and Political Punishment

Brad Lockerbie, East Carolina University

Forecasting elections is an enterprise that intrigues and amuses political scientists, politicians, and the general public. We have seen office betting pools around political science departments. Politicians and the talking heads will have bets concerning their forecasts and predictions of the upcoming election. Despite the transfers of wealth and honor that come with these wagers, these activities are somewhat less than we might like. Unless, of course, the transfer of wealth flows to us.

What makes these activities less than satisfying is that there is no mechanism by which to assess the forecast. Yes, we know if the prognosticator got it right. We do not, however, know by what means the forecaster made a prediction. Should we trust the forecaster the next time around? The models the academic forecasters come up with are laid out for all to see. Our data are made available with the forecast. Assuming we do not constantly tweak our forecasts, one can assess the accuracy. If we change our forecast so that we can point to one as being right, we are creating a non-falsifiable forecast. If one time I forecast the Democratic candidate will win and another time say the Republican candidate will be victorious, I have guaranteed that that I can point to one forecast as getting it right. If I note that I have had several forecasts that differ, then I have treated the consumer of my forecast properly. Also, one can update one’s forecast with relevant information. When discussing one’s forecast, it should be noted that it has been revised.

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PS: Political Science & PoliticsVolume 49, Issue 4 (Elections in Focus) / October 2016, pp. 673-676