Are Surveys of Experts Unbiased? Evidence from College Football Rankings

38 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011 Last revised: 22 Jul 2011

Justin M. Ross

Indiana University - School of Public & Environmental Affairs

Sarah E. Larson

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)

Chad Wall

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 4, 2011

Abstract

Policy makers are frequently interested in soliciting unbiased information regarding alternative policies, and expert surveys can be influential. Since ranking policies is an often subjective process, there is always the concern of bias, both intentional and not. Expert bias is difficult to discern in the policy world, but surveys of expert opinion are compiled and "tested" for accuracy weekly in college football, allowing for hypothesis testing. While previous research has used college football rankings to determine the ability of surveys to incorporate relevant information, this paper examines the Associated Press and American Football Coaches' Association rankings for evidence of systematic bias. Specifically, more than 1,300 games from the 2003 to 2008 regular seasons are tested for factors that are systematically correlated with upsets. Both polls predict the winner nearly 80 percent of the time, and though there is evidence of systematic conference bias, correcting the rankings would only improve the accuracy of the polls by about 1 percent. There is no evidence of a bias favoring "big market" teams, nor teams that have strong journalism programs or are from the East Coast.

Keywords: College Football, Bias, Expert Judgment, Crowd Wisdom

JEL Classification: D4, L83

Suggested Citation

Ross, Justin M. and Larson, Sarah E. and Wall, Chad, Are Surveys of Experts Unbiased? Evidence from College Football Rankings (April 4, 2011). Contemporary Economic Policy, Forthcoming; Indiana University-Bloomington: School of Public & Environmental Affairs Research Paper Series No. 2011-04-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1802650 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1802650

Justin M. Ross (Contact Author)

Indiana University - School of Public & Environmental Affairs ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Sarah E. Larson

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Chad Wall

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) ( email )

1015 Floyd Avenue
Richmond, VA 23284
United States

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