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Wednesday, March 30, 2005



I've watched the tradesports election data very carefully for a while now. For the 2004 presidential election I watched the data daily for a year, hourly for the week before the election, and minute by minute in the 48 hours leading up to and including the "call" of the election by the relevant state level election officials.

Here's what I learned:

1. In the '04 election, those entering the market early (like a year before the election) tended to be irrationally exuberant Republicans. For example, the contract for BUSH to win Oregon was priced at 60 (or so) a year before the election -- and of course Bush lost Oregon and the contract closed at zero. Every state with a seeming mismatch between polling data and trading price was in the same direction -- irrationally priced for Bush to win.

2. As trade volume increased, the prices became more rational. (I.e. the price for Bush to win Oregon approached, and fell below, Bush's polling numbers).

3. On the eve of the election, the data swung wildly as traders responded to scraps of news. The big swings came when exit polling data was leaked and spread on the internet -- suddenly Kerry WOULD win Ohio! Ka-ching! And then the prices dropped as the polling was disputed and disproved by early election returns in key precincts.

I'm sure Wolfers et. al have taken a systematic look at this data. It would be interesting to see what they can tease out and illuminate with the data, and what is obscured by the choice of model.

Andrew Leigh

There's clearly some insider trading going on, based on party-polling. I know, I have friends who did it (and the party bosses seem don't really seem to care). My suspicion is that many of those placing seat-by-seat bets are either party insiders watching the internal polling, or activists working on those campaigns - which is why those markets tend to do better than experts. Similarly, in the last US election, my understanding is that the Iowa favourite won in all 50 states. This kind of local data-aggregation actually seems to me to be one of the best aspects of betting markets.

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