Feb
03
2016

I don’t think people should rely so much on betting markets this cycle.

I mean, I understand why 538.com is writing about them, but the truth of the matter is that if you relied on the betting markets to make your predictions in Iowa last Monday then you ended up making wrong predictions. Not that the polls did much better, there – or, to a lesser extent, the ‘polls-plus,’ which I think still ended up not taking into account that the nominal front-runner there hadn’t done even the minimum amount of campaign infrastructure that one should reasonably expect from a front-runner. Honestly? If we knew how seriously contested elections were reliably going to go ahead of time in a particular kind of race we’d probably stop having elections in that particular venue.

Also: nothing gets stale quicker than a hot new trend or metric that completely and totally explained what happened in the last election.  Why?  Because political campaigns hire people who can read.

7 Comments

  • nicklevi86 says:

    It’s hard to predict what people will do when many of us ourselves don’t know what we’re going to yet. Double for we who have a pathological hatred of talking to strangers asking personal questions on the phone.

    • acat says:

      I’ve gotten almost no polling calls since I cut the land-line. (I’ve also gotten a couple bucks back in my budget every month…)
      .
      When I was still getting calls, I would pick a given candidate, put myself in the mindset of one of their supporters (for faking Dem support, this often involved a lobotomy and some drool..) and would lie my furry tail off.
      .
      Mew

      • nicklevi86 says:

        Haven’t had a land-line for years, mostly because of the reasons you stated.
        .
        On a similar note regarding your posts below, even phone polls have become targets now that networks use them for debate criteria. Thanks for totally screwing the lineup. 😉

  • acat says:

    I take the opportunity to again mention Goodhart’s Law.
    .
    Betting markets, or any other usable metric for that matter, only remain usable until they become targets. Once that happens, they’re worse than useless.
    .
    The Ames Straw Poll is the classic example here, and the CPAC poll is in the same category – as long as they were simply amusing fundraisers, they were metrics that were potentially useful.
    .
    Once they *became* useful, it *became* beneficial to use them as targets .. to buy the Ames poll (or to stuff the CPAC poll, as Ron Paul’s types tend to do..) .. which destroys their value as metrics .. but it takes a while for others to recognize that the value is gone.
    .
    I submit that Iowa, as a metric, is somewhere after useful but before the value-destruction gets recognized.
    .
    Mew

    • acat says:

      Dropped the last para.
      .
      Betting markets are, rather obviously, much smaller than Iowa or than the Ames poll in its’ heyday .. although they’re a bit bigger than CPAC.
      .
      Point is .. betting markets are also easy enough to manipulate, so .. if campaign X wants to appear stronger, it’s potentially worth a couple bucks to manipulate ’em.
      .
      Mew

  • Skip says:

    Has the Jeb! campaign tried that yet, hiring people who can read?

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