You could say that after hits and misses in both the US and UK elections, public confidence in the accuracy of opinion polls has been severely tested. This was strikingly evident after the 2016 US presidential election, when poll favorite Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump.
With skepticism about polls growing, many commentators now believe it might be worth paying some attention to bookmakers’ betting odds in addition to polls. This becomes more relevant in times of political volatility.
CAN MATCHES MAKE RELIABLE POLITICAL PREDICTIONS?
It is inevitable that bookmakers will include multiple sources of information in their forecasts, including opinion polls. These charts (1a and 1b) show that both bookmakers and pollsters correctly predict that Joe Biden would win the US election in 2020.
Were the bookmakers’ predictions more definitive than opinion poll predictions?
BOOKIES PREDICTION FOR US PRESIDENTILE ELECTIONS 2024?
We have broadly followed bookmakers’ predictions over the past two years – Figure 2a – about who are the top five candidates for US presidency. Trump is not only the clear frontrunner, but also the biggest winner since the last election. Trump’s odds of winning have consistently risen from the low of 13% in December 2020, a poor third favorite, to between 25% and 27%, a remarkable doubling, making him the absolute and undisputed favorite today. Trump now has an impressive 10% lead over his closest rivals, Biden and De Santis.
Perhaps the big revelation in the past six months has been the sudden and sharp rise in De Santis’s odds (Figure 2b) — his odds have more than doubled in the past six months from 7% to over 15% currently. This week marks the first time that Trump’s closest rival is no longer a Democrat, but another Republican. De Santis’s rise has been in sync with the demise of President Biden — whose odds are now slightly lower than De Santis’s: ominous signs for the Democratic party.
Not long ago, Indians hoped that the next US presidential election would be between two candidates of Indian descent: Kamala Harris vs. Nikki Haley! But in the past 18 months (Figure 2c), Kamala Harris crashed from the No. 1 favorite (in December 2021) at a 20% chance to a 5% chance today, according to the bookmakers’ betting odds. This puts Harris only slightly above Nikki Haley, who has a 4% chance of winning. But analysts say there are signs of a rise in Kamala Harris’ ratings – a return is possible for “a week is a long time in politics”.
UK ADDENDUM: THE DECREASE AND DESTRUCTION OF RISHI SUNAK
While the two candidates of Indian descent may bounce back in the US, the crash in the UK is even more devastating (Figure 3).
It had only been three months since Rishi Sunak was the all-time favorite to become the next British Prime Minister with a 40% chance (the second favourite, Liz Truss followed Sunak by a distant 18%). But according to the bookmakers, the odds of Rishi Sunak have dropped from 40% to 5% today. It can take much longer than a week for a Sunak bounce back. It’s still not clear what the details of the political intrigue that engulfed him are – many analysts say his strong rating, which made him Boris Johnson’s closest rival, was in fact his greatest vulnerability.