The year 2013 has come and gone, but President Assad is still clinging to power in Damascus, to the dismay of a majority of participants in our 2013 New America Forecasting Contest. Actually, make that to the dismay of both our 2012 and 2013 contest participants: we wrote that same exact opening sentence in discussing our 2012 results. Going into that year, 55% of our prognosticators picked Assad as the foreign leader most likely to lose his job; last year a whopping 62.7% chose him, far more than any of the other three choices provided: Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu or none of the above (meaning they would all retain their jobs by year’s end). The latter answer was the one correct one, which a quarter of respondents got right.
And now, for 2014, Assad makes his third annual appearance in our forecasting contest, once again in a question about world leaders least likely to be governing by the end of 2014. Will we underestimate him again?
Forecasting is hard work, especially when your calls are recorded for posterity. The sole winner of our 2013 contest, Nimi Idnani, a New York-based executive recruiter, got 9 out 13 questions. Only 5% of respondents got 8 or more correct. What turned out to be the two hardest questions speak to the surprisingly rapid expansion of marriage equality and the resilience of supposedly un-newsworthy Western European nations in our mind and media spheres. Only 8.3% of respondents predicted that the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage in 2014 would exceed the number of Oscars won by Lincoln, the number of days Washington, D.C. would experience temperatures in the triple digits and the number of times China would appear on the cover of The Economist‘s North America edition. And only 12.4% of respondents picked Spain to make more appearances in the print edition of The New York Times than Syria, South Korea or South Africa.
The year 2013 was a good one for the global economy, and optimists were duly rewarded in our contest, by predicting that China’s GDP growth rate would end the year a higher number than the U.S. unemployment rate or the yield on a 10-year Spanish bond, and by being bearish on gold prices, that notorious doom-and-gloom barometer. When it came to our tie-breaker of calling the S&P 500 close for 2013, some 96% of our respondents weren’t bullish enough, choosing a number short of the stock index’s impressive 25% leap. And, of course, it also paid to be bullish on Jennifer Lawrence in 2013 — her Hunger Games sequel crushed The Hobbit, Percy Jackson and The Great Gatsby in their opening-weekend box office takes, as an overwhelming 73% of respondents predicted it would.
We’re figuring Jennifer Lawrence will remain a good bet in 2014, but will leave it up to you to say whether the same can be said about Assad, Frankenstein, Twitter stock, the World Cup hosts, Obamacare and air travel, among other things.
Enjoy our idiosyncratic – but hopefully enlightening– 2014 forecasting contest. And for those you who believe past is prologue, here’s the answer key for the 2013 contest (results are in parentheses).
1. Which novel-to-film adaptation coming to a theatre near you in 2013 will earn more money at the box office on its opening weekend?
A. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ($73,645,197)
B. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158,074,286)
C. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ($14,401,054)
D. The Great Gatsby ($50,085,185)
73% correctly put their money on Katniss Everdeen. A smart group: only 0.5% of the respondents voted for Percy Jackson.
2. Which percentage figure will be highest?
A. U.S. unemployment rate at the close of 2013 ( 7.0%)
B. China’s GDP growth rate in the third quarter of 2013 ( 7.8% )
C. The yield on a 10-year Spanish bond at the close of 2013 (4.15%)
D. The acceptance rate for the 2017 Harvard Class, chosen in Spring 2013 – 5.8%
Almost half of you (44.6%) correctly guessed this one. Only 3.7% of you chose answer D; Harvard actually had its lowest admissions rate ever.
3. Which of these countries will receive the most mentions in the print edition of The New York Times in 2013?
A. Syria (3210)
B. Spain (17,800)
C. South Korea (2,250)
D. South Africa (1,480)
Syria was the popular choice here, with more than 3 of every 4 votes. Only 12.4% of you correctly guessed Spain.
4. To which country will John Kerry not travel during 2013?
E. None of the above; he will travel to all four
If this has you scratching your head, check out this map of the Secretary of State’s travels.
5. In 2012, a post-election tweet by Barack Obama was the most re-tweeted of the year, with more than 810,000 re-tweets. The most re-tweeted tweet of 2013 will be by a:
C. Entertainer (musician or actor)
D. Other profession
While most of you got this one right, we doubt many of you could have predicted which entertainer would earn this dubious prize — ‘Glee’ star Lea Michele. Her first public comment about the death of her boyfriend and costar Cory Monteith peaked at 408,266 shares.
6. Which of these events will happen in 2013?
A. The Washington Redskins will win at least 11 games in the 2013 regular season
B. The New York Times will run a front-page story announcing that life on Mars has been confirmed
C. Apple will bring to market a new Apple TV
D. President Obama will sign an immigration reform bill that provides a pathway to legalization for millions of undocumented workers
E. None of the above will take place
One in four of you correctly guessed that none of these events would happen in 2013. The Redskins actually lost more than 11 games and fired their coach.
7. Which of the following will occur the most times in 2013?
A. Washington, D.C. experiences a day when temperatures reach 100 degrees
B. China (for any reason) is featured on the cover of The Economist’s North America edition
C. Same-sex marriage becomes legal in a state
D. Lincoln is awarded an Oscar during the 2013 Academy Award Ceremony
Last year’s quiz-takers overwhelmingly got this question wrong. 43% of you thought that D.C. would have more days with temperatures above 100 degrees; it actually had no such days. Only 8.3% of you could foresee the dramatic moves in public opinion toward gay marriage.
8. Which item will cost more at the close of business for 2013?
A. Ounce of gold ($1,202.30 as of Dec. 31, 2013)
B. Ounce of platinum ($1.373.80)
C. 125 grams of Petrossian Special Reserve Ossetra Caviar ($1,586)
D. 10 shares of Wynn Resorts, the casino operator in Las Vegas and Macau ($1,942)
You can’t take your eyes off the gold, the most popular (though incorrect) answer.
9. Which of the following Republican politicians will receive the most mentions throughout 2013 in the print edition of The New York Times?
A. Marco Rubio (222)
B. Jeb Bush (50)
C. Paul Ryan (94)
D. Chris Christie (324)
This turned out to be our easiest question. More than 78% of you got this one right.
10. Which of the following individuals will NOT hold their current job as head of government at the end of 2013?
A. Bashar al-Assad
B. Angela Merkel
C. Benjamin Netanyahu
D. All three will still head their respective governments
If you predicted Assad’s fall, you’re not alone. In one past commentary, we even wrote, “Isolated, sanctioned, mocked, broke and besieged by public protests and army defections, Assad’s rule will not survive 2012.”
11. In 2013, the stock market in which of these countries will post the best performance?
Argentina, up more than 80 percent, even beat Japan’s Nikkei 225’s best performance in 40 years. The question in 2014 for most Argentinians will be if they can match that win with a World Cup.
12. Which company’s share price will appreciate the most (as a percentage) in 2013?
The most popular pick here was Amazon, but Facebook more than doubled its share price in 2013.
13. Which finalist city will be awarded the 2020 Olympics in September of 2013?
C. Tokyo Answer: Tokyo 2020
D. None of the above
You had your hearts set on Istanbul. Only one in five of you predicted Tokyo would win.
Tie-breaker: At the close of business the S&P 500 index (recently at 1453) will stand at:
Some of you came awfully close on this one: One predicted the S&P 500 index would be 1849 points, another guessed 1847, and another guessed 1850.
Try your hand at predicting 2014 here.