Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Follow the Money, not the Polls

The latest polls show McCain with a slight lead over Obama.  Yet intrade.com, which offers betting on the race, shows Obama well ahead. 

Especially because what people say to pollsters inaccurately reflects what they'll do in the voting booth, I believe it's smart to ignore the polls and follow the money.

Obama will win. I'm taking bets.


Anonymous said...

Your graph there only goes up to July.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, alas, you're wrong. Look more closely.

Anonymous said...

How much of a discrepancy is there between what people think will happen and who those same people will vote for? In other words, how many of the people betting on Obama are also voting for Obama, not just saying he has a better chance to win?

Marty Nemko said...

Most betters won't take on additional risk by simply betting on who they're voting for.

Sure, small-time betters, for example, make a bet on their favorite sports team in a game. But the total amount of money bet on McCain vs. that bet on Obama is a much better summary of the collective wisdom of the world on who's going to win than is polling data.

Anonymous said...

The main thing to ignore is the national polling data. Except to the extent that it can drive people in individual states away from one or another candidate, it's meaningless.

There's a site called www.electoral-vote.com which breaks out the state-by-state polling data done by the smaller pollsters (Quinnipiac in the northeast, for instance.)

If you sample 1600 people across 50 states, you're only getting about 30 people per state. And you're probably not trying to predict that state's outcome on that small a sample.

I think the most interesting thing up at e-v.com is the comparison between 2004 and 2008 data, for all states and for states that (seem) decided one way or another. So far, this is a very different election.


Marty Nemko said...

Great comment, Anonymous. Indeed the electoral college graph mirrors the Intrade betting predictions. Obama's well ahead.

Anonymous said...

Obama WAS well ahead, but not any more. That graph is current, but the short horizontal scale hides the sharp movement of the past week. Over that stretch, the closing prices have gone from 60-42 Obama to 52-48 McCain.

From the InTrade main page, click on either candidate's chart. That will enlarge it, and you can then display any time period you want. I used the last 7 days.

Anonymous said...

Since reading this, I've been following the polls, Intrade, and the link that the anonymous reader from September 10 provided. As of today, they seem to say the same thing to me, namely that nobody is really ahead right now today (Sept 18) and that it's either candidates' race to win or to lose.

Even with these tools, I'm not comfortable with either one of them. Whoever is commander in chief come January, it will still be politics as usual.