Online market predicts candidates' chances

Intrade.com presents a novel kind of political punditry, as members buy and sell "political futures" whose price represents the collective conventional wisdom of who is most likely to win.

This post is somewhat off topic, though the longer I write the (parent.thesis) blog, the more issues seem related to parenting and technology in some way. And after watching hours of election coverage this week, the Presidential race is intertwined with our whole lives right now. So follow me over this bridge between politics and an online market that tracks the candidates' quest for "Big Mo."

One undeniable result of Super Tuesday is that there will be full employment for pundits over the next nine months. For those of you political junkies who are tired of watching the same old talking heads stretch their speeches to fill yet another hour of programming, the Intrade Prediction Market provides a novel moving indicator of conventional wisdom. Site users buy and sell contracts whose price reflects the probablility that a candidate will receive their party's nomination.

Snapshot of the Democratic primary race, from Intrade.com

Intrade calls itself a political futures market, others call it betting, but it has enough credibility to attract coverage by The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Intrade is based in Ireland and says that the company "can't be sure" if the activity is legal in specific locations.

But whether or not we are allowed to make trades, it is interesting to watch the price fluctuations that reflect collective public opinion about what is likely to happen.

Now that Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race, his shares dropped to almost zero, and John McCain's are selling for 93.8, reflecting a 93.8 percent chance that he will be his party's nominee.

On the Democratic side, the results are a lot more psychologically interesting, given that Obama and Clinton ran to a dead heat in the Super Tuesday elections. Nonetheless, Clinton's shares took a dip on February 5, then a spike up on February 6 (to about 63), then closed down today at 42.8, perhaps fueled by perceptions of who beat expectations on Tuesday, or news that Clinton had loaned her campaign funds. Obama took a slight tick up on February 5, a dip back to recent baseline (about 39) on February 6, then a sharp jump up today to 57.8.

Intrade has markets for current events like Grammy winners, to financial occurrences like a recession, to climate and weather. And yes, it has a market for the eventual winner of the November Presidential election, with McCain and Obama tied with current bid prices of 35.2, and Clinton in third at 28.5. For political horse-race fans, Intrade could become the index to watch.

 

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