Sports pundits are more popular if they are confident, not accurate

Pundits no better than a coin toss, but the public craves confidence. Jim Cramer inspires study. UPI /Monika Graff.
Pundits no better than a coin toss, but the public craves confidence. Jim Cramer inspires study. UPI /Monika Graff. | License Photo

PULLMAN, Wash., May 31 (UPI) -- Sports pundits are just a bit more accurate than your average Joe, but their confidence is what the public craves in an uncertain world, U.S. researchers say.

Jadrian Wooten and Ben Smith, doctoral candidates in economics at Washington State University said they wanted to test pundit stock predictions -- stock pundit Jim Cramer inspired the study -- but they rarely come with a date to verify if a pundit was right or wrong.


However, sporting events do, so Smith made a software program to sort through more than 1 billion tweets for predictions of the 2012 baseball playoffs and World Series and this year's Super Bowl.

The program pulled tweets with team names, nicknames and expressions commonly associated with predictions, like "beat," "vanquish," "destroy" and "annihilate."

Wooten and Smith looked at both professional pundits -- celebrities with verified Twitter accounts -- and amateurs claiming some sports expertise.

Both were worse at predicting than the 50-50 odds of a coin toss, but professionals were right 47 percent of the time, a hair better than the 45 percent accuracy of amateurs. However, the professionals were more confident, scoring a .480 confidence rating to the amateurs' .313, the study said.


Nonetheless, confidence pays far better than accuracy. If a professional pundit accurately predicted every game of the baseball playoffs and series, Wooten and Smith estimated his or her Twitter following would increase 3.4 percent. An amateur would get 7.3 percent more followers.

However, a professional whose confidence knows no bounds would increase his or her following by nearly 17 percent and an amateur would see a nearly 20 percent rise in followers.

Pundits get a bigger audience via confidence and the excitement it generates, the study authors said.

Smith and Wooten outlined their findings at the 50th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Economics and Finance.

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