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July 04, 2019



- "Theresa May called a general election in 2017, believing that council election results and opinion polls were a signal about her electoral prospects. In fact, they were noise. Everybody commenting on a poll now should therefore consider whether these have any more predictive power than they did then, or whether they are just noise."

Were they noise? Or did the situation change?

nicholas ford

Chris's point about noise is fair enough, but I agree with John, he gives a bad example. The situation did change, Labour fought a good campaign, T May a terrible one, and the Tories level of support fell away throughout the campaign.

nicholas ford

I submit there are a couple of issues Chris is failing to explore in this interesting article.
Firstly, just as it is difficult to tell if a fund manager is being skillfull or lucky, it is in some circumstances inherently difficult to tell if a person's confidence comes from ability or pratishness. By contrast, sometimes its obvious - I watched a street artist tight rope walk across a canal yesterday - his confidence came from ability, and I did not hang around to ask if he was ex Eton or Oxbridge in case he obliged me to cough up a couple of quid.
Secondly, confidence itself can have a genuine postive value, even if that confidence is misplaced. That is because a lack of confidence often results in hesitation, and that hesitation detracts from performance. For example, in battle of various sorts, even if two opponents are equally matched, the more confident will usually win, and the leader who inspires confidence in his followers is therefore valued. As an Arsenal fan, Chris knows this to be true.

Robert S Mitchell

You hedge short bets with other bets, like on volatility. By hedging using greeks you can make money no matter where a price moves. Speculators choose to forego perfect hedges.


Writing so many Words With so many References and avoiding Tetlock? shame on you.


@ nicholas ford

“Labour fought a good campaign, T May a terrible one”

True. But also, Labour's leadership election had the effect of opening up political debate to hitherto restricted, constrained voices. A substantial situational change.

But, as Chris indicates: its a problem if there's no living to be earned from boosting the confidence of ordinary social groupings on the national stage.


This is superficial and betrays political biases. Will the author learn? Doubt it.
Buffet regularly urges people to ALWAYS back America. Arrogance? Principle? Take you pick.
The FT saying with certainty that the UK must join the euro. Foolhardy? Conviction? Take you pick.
I suspect Tetlock in Superforecasters is right. Incremental knowledge to adjust one's model is a sound way to improve forecasting accuracy. But in politics, subject to pyschological traits and life experiences, there is no resolution. It will always be messy. Accept it.


«Theresa May called a general election in 2017, believing that council election results and opinion polls were a signal about her electoral prospects. In fact, they were noise.»

Bad example: she got a veritable landslide, exactly as predicted, in exactly the way her advisors predicted (getting UKIP votes back).

Her problem was that Labour got another landslide, that the media pundits had "missed", because Tony Blair *himself* had said that Labour's campaign was wrong, and only a centrist party like the LibDem with a thatcherite-for-Remain programme like the LibDem would win a lot of votes (and Blair is *never* wrong).

And therein lies a better story: the media personalities seem to me to engage not in prediction, but in propaganda, probably hoping such propaganda is performative.

That is by predicting a Labour fail for not being thatcherite-for-Remain they may have hoped to discourage Labour voters and help Labour to fail.
That's I think why they are still employed and well compensated: they are still doing the job they are paid for.


Chris, does the same absence of consequence in punditry also apply to elected politicians? If you were, say, to sing the praises of Venezuela as an example of socialist government bringing prosperity to a country, would the later abject collapse of the Venezuelan economy be in any way an obstacle to your future political success? Asking for a friend.

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