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Thin-Slice Forecasts of Gubernatorial Elections

Daniel J. Benjamin, Jesse M. Shapiro

NBER Working Paper No. 12660
Issued in November 2006
NBER Program(s):, Political Economy

We showed 10-second, silent video clips of unfamiliar gubernatorial debates to a group of experimental participants and asked them to predict the election outcomes. The participants' predictions explain more than 20 percent of the variation in the actual two-party vote share across the 58 elections in our study, and their importance survives a range of controls, including state fixed effects. In a horse race of alternative forecasting models, participants' visual forecasts significantly outperform economic variables in predicting vote shares, and are comparable in predictive power to a measure of incumbency status. Adding policy information to the video clips by turning on the sound tends, if anything, to worsen participants' accuracy, suggesting that naïveté may be an asset in some forecasting tasks.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12660

Published: Daniel J Benjamin & Jesse M Shapiro, 2009. "Thin-Slice Forecasts of Gubernatorial Elections," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 523-536, 02. citation courtesy of

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