Prediction Contest: Summary Results

Earlier this month I ran a 2023 Prediction Contest, with participants having to say how likely they thought forty UK and world events were to occur. In this post I summarise the entries and declare what my own predictions were.

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For those who didn’t do the survey, there were 40 questions: 20 on UK politics and economy, 10 on global politics and world events, and 10 on science, entertainment and miscellany. People could skip questions they weren’t interested in. Scoring will be by Brier Scoring.

A total of 63 people entered the competition (meaning that question 40 resolves positively). Of these, 10 wrote text answers (e.g. ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘perhaps’) in the answer fields instead of numbers, so are unable to be marked – if any of these people are reading this, I hope you still enjoyed answering the questions! That left 53 valid answers.

The average number of questions answered was 37.5 (out of 40). Within this, 60% of people answered every question and only 4 people answered fewer than 30 (the lowest being 19). The most commonly skipped questions were on entertainment – on Matilda, Stranger Things, Dune and George R. R. Martin – which makes sense, in that most people doing the quiz would likely have a reasonable interest in current affairs, but are less likely to share my taste in entertainment. The most commonly skipped non-entertainment questions were on the two bills.

In terms of people’s intuitive grasp of probability, everyone assigned an equal or higher probability that three members of the Cabinet would change than that only one would change, which is good news (the ‘equal’ were four people who put 100% chance for both). Questions 8 and 9, however, seemed to confuse quite a lot of people, which is probably a flaw in how they were phrased. A good chunk of people assigned a cumulative probability to these events of greater than 100%, or implicitly assigned a zero or negative percentage chance to Labour leading the Conservatives by 11-19%. I’m sorry for phrasing these in a confusing way.

Last year, Scott Alexander found that simply averaging the guesses of all participants produced a result – the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ – that was more accurate than 84% of individual entries. Accordingly, in the table below I’ve shown both my own prediction (for the record), the Wisdom of Crowds guess, and also the standard deviation.

QuestionMy predictionWisdom of Crowds’ (Mean)S.D.
1. Rishi Sunak will be Prime Minister at the end of the year.907821
2. Boris Johnson will be an MP at the end of the year.807023
3. Keir Starmer will be Leader of the Opposition at the end of the year.958417
4. Ed Davey will be Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the end of the year.958416
5. The Conservatives will lose more than 500 seats at the local elections.605923
6. At least one member of the Cabinet will change (e.g. due to resignation, firing, death; a temporary absence due to maternity leave DOES NOT count).90948
7. At least three members of the Cabinet will change (e.g. due to resignation, firing, death; a temporary absence due to maternity leave DOES NOT count).707117
8. On 1 January 2024, the Politico Poll of Polls will show that Labour has a 20 point or higher lead over the Conservatives.305223
9. On 1 January 2024, the Politico Poll of Polls will show that Labour has a 10 point or lower lead over the Conservatives (or that Conservatives are in the lead).154428
10. The number of people recorded crossing the Channel in small boats in 2023 will be higher than in 2022.656720
11. Teachers will go on strike for five days or more.606026
12. The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will gain Royal Assent.957021
13. The Strikes (Minimum Services Level) Bill will gain Royal Assent.856022
14. No domestic COVID restrictions are imposed in the UK over the course of the year.908812
15. Neither the Equality Act nor the Human Rights Act is repealed nor significantly amended.907221
16. The inflation figure for December 2023 is below 5%.754923
17. The Bank of England’s base rate of interest does not rise above 4%.154923
18. Cumulative Government borrowing April – November, as measured by the OBR, is lower in 2023 than for the same period in 2022.804725
19. The Labour party formally abandon their pledge to abolish university tuition fees.604924
20. ”Yes’ leads in Politico’s Poll of Polls on the question as to whether Scotland would vote for independence in a future referendum.506223
21. Joe Biden announces that he will not run for President in 2024.255426
22. Donald Trump is convicted of a criminal offence.404726
23. Ron de Santis is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2024 (as measured by
24. A lasting cease-fire or truce is agreed between Ukraine and Russia and is in effect on 1 January 2024.303423
25. Russia controls the Crimea.957221
26. Putin is President of Russia.857717
27. Regime change occurs in Iran.102818
28. Xi is President of China.958611
29. At least one general election occurs in Israel.605519
30. A clearly defined natural disaster (i.e. earthquake, volcano, tsunami; not an ongoing period of heat/cold) kills over 10,000 people somewhere in the world.154231
31. George R. R. Martin announces that he has completed The Winds of Winter.103023
32. Elon Musk continues to own Twitter.606225
33. J. K. Rowling’s net worth is higher in 2023 than in 2022 (when it was £850m), as measured by the Sunday Times Rich List.656327
34. Dune 2 takes over $500m globally at the box office.405619
35. A successful space launch takes place in the UK.405326
36. At least one British person wins a Nobel prize.605025
37. Stranger Things Season 5 is released on Netflix.155823
38. % of energy generation from Renewables exceeds 15%, as measured by latest data on Our World in Data.406121
39. Matilda: The Musical wins an Oscar354427
40. At least 33 people answer this survey.908619

On a lot of questions I am pretty aligned with the Wisdom of Crowds, but on eight I’m more than one standard deviation away which, I’ll be honest, is a bit worrying and more than I expected. In a move which I suspect I may well regret in a year’s time, I’ll try to explain my reasoning for these 8:

  • Labour will have a 10 point or lower lead over the Conservatives (I predicted much less likely). Rationale: The gap is currently 21% and while I think it will close a bit, I’m pessimistic it will close that much over the next year. I’d love to be wrong though!
  • Free Speech Bill will be passed (I predicted much more likely). Rationale: The overwhelming majority of Government-backed Bills pass; the prior for passing should be high. This Bill has already been through the Commons and the Lords, so only ping-pong is left, meaning even Parliamentary time is not much of an issue.
  • Strikes Bill will pass (I predicted much more likely). Rationale: see above on Government Bills. Also, although this is controversial and still requires time, it’s a flagship piece of Government legislation.
  • Inflation will be below 5% (I predicted much more likely). The OBR is (or was, when I completed this0 predicting inflation to be below 4% by the end of the year; they could be a bit wrong and this would still resolve positively.
  • Interest rates will not exceed 4% (I predicted much less likely). Rationale: they’re already at 3.5% and people say the Bank is likely to raise them again next month. The current prediction is for them to peak at 4.5%.
  • Borrowing this coming year to be lower than last year (I predicted much more likely). Rationale: the deficit is predicted to fall, even if the debt continues to rise. I’m predicting the Government will spend much less on energy support. On reflection, I may have been overconfident about this one though).
  • Biden to announce he won’t stand in 2024 (I predicted much less likely). Rationale: I have to admit, I don’t know why so many people think he won’t stand. I know he’s old, but presidents almost always stand again, he’s been pretty successful and just had excellent mid-terms. My assumption is unless he’s prevented by death or illness, he’ll stand.
  • Stranger Things Season 5 to be released (I predicted much less likely). Rationale: they’re not starting production until this summer and the release is anticipated to be in 2024.

We will see in a year’s time who is most accurate! Regardless of how accurate we all turn out to be, thank you to everyone who took part – and I hope you had fun.

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6 thoughts on “Prediction Contest: Summary Results

  1. Interesting results.
    I answered questions at speed so misread at least one (Q18 – I interpreted this as total UK public debt not the 8 month debt) and may have missed others!
    Wisdom of the crowd is sometimes just the cancellation of opposite mistakes

    1. Yes, I think you’re right there! And different people having different over- and under- optimism biases on different issues which again can cancel out.

  2. I wonder if some people missed the “not”s in “The Bank of England’s base rate of interest does not rise above 4%” and “Joe Biden announces that he will not run for President in 2024”.

  3. I’m following this with great interest, but I didn’t actually take part, because I felt a bit intimidated and out of my depth, lacking any background knowledge on most of the topics.
    But I definitely could have cleared the bar of giving numerical answers as opposed to “perhaps” (10 people!) and not giving inconsistent probabilities, so I probably should have entered.
    Tell you what, if you do it again next year I commit to entering then, barring extreme circumstances.

  4. I left it too late to enter, but would have gone closer to you than the crowd on most things even before reading your reasoning (I’m less pessimistic/more uncertain about Putin’s war than you).

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