Freakonomics Poll: When It Comes to Predictions, Whom Do You Trust?

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Folly of Prediction,” is built around the premise that humans love to predict the future, but are generally terrible at it. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)

There are a host of professions built around predicting some future outcome: from predicting the score of a sports match, to forecasting the weather for the weekend, to being able to tell what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But is anyone actually good at it?

[poll id=”18″]


bsod

there was no check box for myself

bsod

there should atleast be on for 'none of the above'

Chris

Where is the "non of the above" option?

Bourree Lam

We've added that option now.

Rami

Myself!!!

caleb b

Sports Experts - this is a no-brainer. But mainly because sports follow a more predictable pattern. For instance, it's easy to predict that the Cubs will suck, because they always suck. It's pretty easy to predict Alabama will be good in football 5 years from now, they're almost always good at football.

Adam

Does anyone find it comical that the most chosen answer is a profession that predicts natural events? All other options are man made topics/events in one way or another...

I chose None of the Above. Since the question is "Who do you trust?" on predictions, I don't actually trust any of them. I've been setup for disappointment by all, and no one gets it right every time. I accept that and instead use forecasts as a guide rather than fact. Experts in various fields are often great to use as a guide on what not to do (not always, but in some cases, yes). Stock market predictions are the perfect example of this. Recently, if you do the exact opposite of what the majority says about the market, you'll make quick money. Anyone recall economists claiming 15, 20 even close to 30% unemployment numbers back in late 2008/2009? Or the Dow going to zero? I know these are extremes, but in times of crisis, there are people who buy-in to these extremes.

Or what about sports experts touting teams going to the World Series or Super Bowl, in the first week of the season? I know we all do it, but how many of us get it right? I think a great study for Levitt would be the March Madness Basketball predictions. With the number of games played and the incredibly large number of people who participate, might this be useful in a study on the folly of sports predictions? I know controls would need to be setup, but the results would be very interesting.

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Caleb b

Better than Sports Experts? Sports Bookies!

As Mary pointed in the Folly of Prediction podcast post, the people who are best at predictions are those with skin in the game.

Mike K.

Exactly. I trust the spread.

Vince Skolny

I rather suspect the individuals that trust their meteorologists live in the desert.

Mike Stewart

Too bad Freakonomics wasn't on there!

Then I would have the choice NOT to select Freakonomics as a reliable predictor of the future!

Joshua Northey

Meteorologists are by far the best out of those. I bike 12 miles a day for a commute and so need to pay close attention to the forecast, and it is pretty much always spot on.

The others are pretty much just talking out of their *** most of the time. Particularly the bottom three. Economists at least have a field of expertise and small areas they can speak sensibly about despite their field's infancy.

Most sports and stock analysts are so poor I will mute them when they are on. Political pundits might as well be throwing darts 95% of the time. Anything they can tell me with any degree of certainty I already knew. I love watching political pundits breathlessly report on political goings on that are completely irrelevant. For instance it was clear Obama had won the nomination (barring some unexpected event) long before pundits were willing to even broach the subject. Too much money to be made pretending it was an issue in need of further prediction/punditry for another several months.

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Mike B

Can you redo the poll with a category for Nate Silver? He's actually done a pretty good job at all of the above.

cannon

Whom do you trust?

Scott from Ohio

The options are not mutually exclusive. We should either be able to choose more than one, or the question should be reworded as "who do you trust most?" rather than simply "who do you trust?"

Eric M. Jones.

I have flown small aircraft for years. I can tell you that one's LIFE depends on meteorologists. Of your choices, meteorology is the only science. As such, not only can they tell you their weather prediction, but they even publish their scores. And they will tell you what percentages you should assign to their prognostications. This is all the difference.

Joshua Connelly

Ron Paul and Peter Schiff, they predicted the housing market bubble and pop years before Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac were household names.

Casey

I'm guessing that meteorologists are ranked the highest as they have the shortest time horizon in their predictions. There may also be some natural restraints in the prediction (say, no snow in July) that aren't present in other categories (stocks can go to zero).

Roger

I am more inclined to trust one who is less inclined to make predictions.