If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess

I promise the political content of this site will soon return to its usual, low level. (Certainly by November 3.) But now that we’ve learned for whom novelists will be voting, perhaps we should also consider who is favored by economists … or at least who they believe would do a better job managing the U.S. economy.

Would John Kerry or George Bush do a better job stewarding America’s economy? Judging by the polls, voters are not sure. Within the past couple of months both candidates have had narrow leads on the issue. Ask economics professors, however, and you get a clearer answer.

In an informal poll of 100 academics, conducted by The Economist, Mr Bush’s policies win low marks. More than 70% of the 56 professors who responded to our survey rate Mr Bush’s first-term economic policies as bad or very bad. Fewer than 20% give positive marks to Mr Bush’s second-term economic agenda, and almost six out of ten disapproved. Mr Kerry hardly got rave reviews either, but his economic plan still fared better than the president’s did. In all, four out of ten professors rated Mr Kerry’s economic plan as good or very good, but 27% gave it negative scores.