Bet the Election

Donald Trump will probably lose the election.

As I write, The Economist says he has only an 8% chance of winning.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which came closest to predicting Trump’s win in 2016 and has the best track record among modelers, gives Trump just a 12% chance.

But people who “put money where their mouths are” give Trump a better chance: 37%.

That’s according to, the website I created with Maxim Lott. It tracks multiple betting sites around the world.

Though 61%-37% seems like a giant lead for Joe Biden, 37% means Trump is likely to win one-third of the time.

Four years ago, most bettors were wrong about Trump and Brexit. I assume they learned from that and adjusted their 2020 bets.

But since bettors were wrong in 2016, why trust betting odds now?

Because betting is a better predictor than polls, pundits, statistical models and everything else. has tracked hundreds of races. When bettors think a candidate has a 37% chance — they really do win roughly that often.

A research scientist at Amazon concluded that in the last presidential election, beat all other existing public prediction models except for Nate Silver’s polls-plus model.

Silver says: “Betting markets are populated by people with a sophomoric knowledge of politics… Traders are emotionally invested in political outcomes.” Also, “Markets (are) not super liquid… way different than sports where you have a much more sophisticated player base and more liquidity.”

But our site takes odds from betting sites in Europe, the U.S. and a cryptocurrency-based exchange. More than $200 million has been bet.

As Silver says in his excellent book, “The Signal and the Noise,” “A lot of smart people have failed miserably when they thought they could beat the market.”

Overall, bettors have the best track record. Last election, The New York Times’ “expert model” had Hillary Clinton ahead 85% to 15%. The Princeton Election Consortium gave Clinton a 99% chance. (Now they give Biden 98.2%.)

Daily Kos had Clinton at 92%. Huffington Post had 98%. Those two stopped operating after that embarrassment.

Silver is one modeler who’s often beaten the market. In 2016, he gave Trump the highest odds, and in 2018, he was the most confident that Democrats would win the House.

On the other hand, his FiveThirtyEight model was confident Democrats would win Florida’s and Indiana’s Senate races, making Democrats 70% favorites in both states. But Republicans won. Bettors were closer to predicting the actual results.

Bettors do well because they consider many things not easily captured by polls and statistical models.

How many mail-in ballots do not get counted? In the New York state primary this year, 20% were disqualified for irregularities.

FiveThirtyEight “built in an extra layer of uncertainty this year because of the possibility that the pandemic will disrupt usual turnout patterns.” But bettors believe it’s not enough.

Bettors also consider the possibility that polls are wrong in some new way.

In 2016, polls showed Clinton well ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but pollsters hadn’t questioned enough voters without college degrees. Who knows what mistakes pollsters are making now?

Betting sites’ track records also do well because bettors invest their own money. That focuses the mind.

Today, bettors make other interesting predictions:

They say there’s a 56% chance a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved by March 31, and a 22% chance that Trump will pardon himself during his first term.

They give 50/50 odds that this year be the hottest year on record.

The Kansas City Chiefs (17%) and Baltimore Ravens (13%) have the best chance to win the Super Bowl, but since their total is only 30%, some other team is likely to win.

Back to politics,’s Senate map predicts Democrats will retake the Senate, and might even sweep every contested state.

If that happens, Democrats would have the power to end the filibuster, pack the Supreme Court and pass their whole agenda with simple majorities.

As a libertarian, I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

I’ll keep watching the odds at They update every 5 minutes.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

23 thoughts on “Bet the Election

  1. Well, since Nate Silver has a ‘sophomoric level understanding of politics’ I’ll take his predictions with a Salt Lake City-sized dose of salt.

  2. I disagree. I think the chances for either candidate is about 50%. Conservatives do not like to respond to surveys or polls, which leads to biased results. You’ll see on election day.

  3. Please do a segment on how many if any of the celebrities and public figures who said in 2016 it Trump won the presidency they would leave the USA. Well did anyone?

  4. Went to my early voting site today. On the roads leading into the county park, I saw only one Biden sign and at least a hundred for Trump.

    Car number stickers have about the same ratio.

    If Democrats don’t win my county, they don’t win my state.

    I predict an Electoral Landslide for Trump.

  5. Republicans skew the polls by voting for Biden. On November 3rd they’ll vote for Trump… if I were a betting person I’d bet Trump will win in a red landslide bigger than 2016… just remember this… Biden is in mental decline and Harris is a socialist and you can on vote for socialism once.

  6. Republicans skew the polls by voting for Biden. On November 3rd they’ll vote for Trump… if I were a betting person I’d bet Trump will win in a red landslide bigger than 2016… just remember this… Biden is in mental decline and Harris is a socialist and you can only vote for socialism once.

  7. Trump is going to Win by a greater margin than in 16. All you see and hear are the ratchet sounds of the few. when I drive down a residential street with Biden signs there are more houses without signs indicating conservatives who don’t want to be harassed by the petulant liberals. Confucius say it’s better to be quiet and thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!

  8. Look at the crowds. Trump’s drawing power is enormous, and Biden couldn’the draw a crowd with a pencil. Trump by a landslide.

  9. Go to Donald Trump’s Facebook Page and see how many of your friends have LIKED his page then do the same on Joe Biden’s. I’ve yet to find anyone who had more likes for Biden than Trump….not even close

    1. This was really interesting. I see a out 2-1 posts in support of Biden (or bashing Trump) on my Facebook feed. After reading your comment I did what you said 6 fans liked Biden page, 59 liked Trump. Mind blown 😲

  10. I think the polls will be proven wrong. But I do not believe it will be by accident or ineptitude. I think pollsters have been trying to game the system. MSM has blatantly and shamelessly tried to give the election to Biden. There should be retribution. A reckoning. Congress taking action is not enough.

  11. To me this article gives Nate Silver way too much credit in 2016. On November 3rd, 2016: “Just last week, Nate Silver’s polls-only forecast gave Hillary Clinton an overwhelming 85 percent chance of winning. But as of Thursday morning, her odds have fallen down to 66.9 percent — suggesting that while Donald Trump is still the underdog, there’s a one-in-three shot he’ll end up the next president.”

    He was still far from correct.

    1. Exactly. The closest 2016 poll I’m aware of was a Fox News poll, which projected that the race could be much tighter than anyone else was predicting (though they didn’t project him as the winner.)

  12. We took a trip from the Gulf Coast of Texas up through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and back. We did not see a Biden Harris sign until we got to Traverse City, MI, the old insane asylum. Trust me we looked for them. We were on the road three weeks and saw at most six B/H signs, I could exaggerate and say maybe ten. The mainstream media is prepping us to not be shocked when they steal the election because that’s the only way B/H will win. God help us all!!! #TRUMP2020

  13. Three weeks ago my son and I took an 8 state tour from MT thought ND, MN, IA, NE, CO, WY and back home. Trump signage to Biden was conservatively 50 to 1 overall.

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