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New course pushes UWI lecturer to release election forecast this month

Published:Sunday | October 4, 2015 | 10:00 AMErica Virtue

A University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer in political science, an undergraduate and a postgraduate student will seek to forecast the results of the upcoming general election, using the science and skills garnered in pursuit of the Bachelor of Science degree in Leadership, Strategy and Management.

Since the last academic year, the UWI started offering a course in political forecasting at its Mona campus.

"Political forecasting is not the same as political polling," said Dr Christopher Charles, senior lecturer in political psychology and the coordinator of the course.

"Polling is just one of the things that will inform forecasting. But it's important to know that whereas polling captures happenings at a particular moment in time, forecasting is different. Forecasting may or may not use polling.

"Political forecasting is predicting political outcomes. So you can predict if there is going to be violence; if a public policy is going to be successful; if an election is going to be called in a certain period and the outcome of an election," added Charles.

He said the course was developed to provide students with skills that are marketable as they will be able to forecast anything.

"Someone who has done the course as part of the degree could be hired to forecast tastes and trends in the market, but not necessarily to hire them as a marketer. It complements marketing," Charles told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said when polls are used, the results must come from someone who has consistently done polling, and whose findings are consistently accurate.

"I will stand on my own in forecasting the upcoming election. But it will not be the department's forecast. I plan to make my forecast public by the middle of October. It is usually good to make your forecast six months to a year and not the week before the election. So it's best to call it before they call the election."

According to Charles, "new information may cause a refinement of [a] forecast".

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com