Prediction market infiltrations in the media – US vs. UK

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Folks, I want to tackle this important issue in this blog post. But first, I will excerpt two news articles from The Economist. The first one was written by their American correspondence, and the second one was written by their UK-based journalists. [Technical Note: Since each of the stories from The Economist is written collectively by a bunch of journalists (whose names are not disclosed, by the way), this is the reason I use the plural for the word “journalists”.]


The Economist #1:

Hillary Clinton
Ready to run the movie again?

Oct 4th 2007 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition
The betting is that the Clintons will follow the Bushes back into the White House

[SECOND PARAGRAPH] […] Mrs Clinton is way out in front of the Democratic field. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll puts her 33 points ahead of Barack Obama and 40 points ahead of John Edwards. She raised $22m in the last quarter—more than Mr Obama at $19m and much more than Mr Edwards at $7m. The once-mighty Republican Party is a shadow of its former self, divided not only about who should lead it but also about where it should go. Intrade, a pay-to-play prediction market, shows a 36% chance of the Republicans holding the White House alongside a 12% chance of them taking the House and a 7% chance they might take the Senate. […]

The Economist #2:

Polls and elections
One man, one decision

From The Economist print edition
Public-opinion surveys cannot tell the prime minister when to go to the country

[LAST PARAGRAPH] In 2005 the most accurate predictions came not from the opinion polls but from online betting markets. This time, says Leighton Vaughan Williams of Nottingham Trent University&#8217-s Betting Research Unit, an election before Christmas is odds on and Labour is hot favourite to win the most seats. But the odds that Labour will get an overall majority are just slightly better than even. “So,” asks Mr Vaughan Williams, “is the prime minister willing to risk his majority on the toss of a coin?”


– INTERESTING OBSERVATION: Right away, in the first paragraph, the US-based journalists inform their audience with a combo of polls and probabilistic probabilities from the most liquid betting exchange in America (InTrade). Whereas the UK-based journalists will give, in the last paragraph, a bit like an anecdote you tell to your friends at the end of a good lunch, some vague indications given by the &#8220-betting markets&#8221- (not well defined). [*]

– ANALYSIS &amp- REMEDY: My hunch is that the UK-based journalists have not been spinned well enough by the prediction market economists. The remedy is that the British journalists (news writers, reporters, columnists, bloggers, etc.) should be exposed to the wisdom-of-crowds science in events or press conferences.


[*] ADDENDUM: Professor Leighton Vaughan-Williams&#8216- e-mail to me&#8230-

In the &#8216-Economica&#8217- article reference is made to the 2005 British election. For that election I used exchanges (notably, but not exclusively, Betfair and Intrade), the Cantor Spreadfair &#8217-spread betting&#8217- exchange, spread bookmakers, notably IG Index and Sporting Index, and to a lesser extent fixed-odds bookmakers like Ladbrokes and William Hill.

In reference to the next election, the odds quoted were those quoted on Betfair at 9.30 am (UK time) yesterday.

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