Presidential Betting: Much More of a Laugh than Polls

Published February 7, 2016 by Lee R

Presidential Betting: Much More of a Laugh than Polls

Algorithms based on widespread betting activity over limited polling systems provide the surprisingly accuracy of betting odds.

While political polling is traditionally unreliable because many Americans are relatively uninformed, there exists election prognostication that people are willing to bet on—literally.

Poll Predictions

As far as polls are concerned, Donald Trump (36%) is the clear leader of the Republicans, ahead of Ted Cruz (19 percent) and Marco Rubio (12 percent), Hillary Clinton leads far over her closest competitor Bernie Sanders.

As for the finals, election odds tab Clinton the likely winner in 2016, with her odds outdistancing Trump by some 30 points.

Presidential Betting Odds System

According to research at University of Kansas, odds are based on “the wisdom of crowds,” with odds makers tracks betting on trends according to (and in reaction to) bet placement as well as data and algorithms which render the odds for candidate “surprisingly accurate,” with hundreds of millions wagered on each major American election in the US and Europe.

History

Nor is this a new phenomenon: the practice of betting on elections stretches back to at least the early 19th Century, with Italy holding markets on local elections and papal succession as early as the 16th Century. Today, punters can place political bets online at bookies such as William Hill Sports and Winner Sports.

Recent Odds Performance

As for recent elections, the betting markets indeed predicted President Obama's reelection in 2012 and his initial election in 2008, when voting polls significantly mispredicted the outcome in favoring Clinton before reaching a push between the two by the time the elections started.

Odds Accuracy

In all fairness, election odds like polls are capable of being skewed, and this is when they would become inaccurate. However, unlike polls, odds are not designed to serve as predictors, but merely common betting parameters. Betting is for fun, and odds are at the end of the day still not held to the same social standard of accuracy expected of polls. While some watch the polls to examine how Hillary’s lead holds up this time around, odds makers may provide a better clue, using technology and relying on the common knowledge and sense of the people for the increasingly sensitive task of setting presidential election odds.

Mentioned in this article

See also

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