Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election Will Resolve an Important Issue

I have received a number of calls from my many fans in recent days who want to know if I still stand by my bold (and apparently annoying) statement of six weeks ago in which I declared the presidential election to be over and declared Obama the clear winner.

I have never wavered in my conviction, despite President Obama's apparent determination to prove me a liar during the first debate, and  I certainly am not concerned now.  At the end of the day, the combination of Romney's weakness as a candidate and the Republican party's toxic platform are every bit as damaging to his candidacy today as they were months ago.

It was over then and it is over now. 

But that is not the reason for this article.

An interesting question that has emerged during the last two months of the campaign has been whether traditional polls (Gallup, Pew, Rasmussen, and such) have gone the way of credit rating agencies and become completely useless as a predictive tool or if they are able to measure public sentiment accurately.

Politcal polls have a spotty track record but in the new world where no one under the age of 50 has a land line telephone any more it really calls into question how a pollster can sample opinion at all today.  During the last few months, I have received more than a dozen calls from pollsters on my home phone but no calls on the cell phone which I use for most of my communication.

How do pollsters sample public opinion if they are using telephone polling but they aren't calling anyone who only has a cell phone?  A good question, but also not the reason for this article.

The burning question is how and why there is such a huge disconnect between the predictions being made by traditional pollsters and the odds being quoted on the betting sites where real people are betting tens of millions of dollars on the upcoming elections?

Full disclosure.  As an investment adviser and as an observer of the human and political condition I have always paid far more attention to how people behave than to what they say.  It is an approach that tends to serve us all well.

That is why I confess to being an addict of Intrade, Ladbrokes, and other betting sites where gamblers (investors) can wager on the outcome of upcoming events.

From the outset, Obama has been a solid favorite to win re-election on all the betting sites and at this very moment with the election just hours away, the president is a 70-30 favorite to win on Intrade and a 2-9 favorite at Ladbrokes (U.S. casinos are not allowed to take bets on our elections) in Great Britain.  Meanwhile, Gallup--the most prestigious of the traditional pollsters--now says that Romney is slightly AHEAD overall.

The odds have always favored Obama although his lead dropped into the 55-45 range during the week after his disastrous performance and Romney's clear win in the first debate in September.  But real bettors betting real money have never--not ever for a second--considered Romney likely to win.

Even more dramatic is the widely divergent message we are getting on the likely outcome in the so-called swing states.  We are told at this very moment by the mainstream media and the traditional polls that the election is neck and neck and could go either way. That states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are essentially deadlocked and too close to call.

Meanwhile, the betting sites are stating clearly that there are only two real toss up states remaining--
Virginia and Colorado (Obama is ahead slightly in each).  Real people betting real money have made Romney a huge favorite in Florida and North Carolina and Obama is a prohibitive favorite--25 points or more--in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Iowa, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.

If investors are to be believed, it will be a very early night tomorrow.

The issue that should get a lot of attention but probably won't is why, armed with prestigious but probably very misleading polling data, have our mainstream media been tricking us into believing that this race has been a cliff-hanger all along?  Could it be that they are less interested in keeping us informed than they are in insulating themselves from charges of liberal bias from the Right?  And that most of all they are desperate to keep us sitting on the edges of our seats until the game is over even though real people betting real money have been telling us for months that this election will be a blowout?

This is the only real question regarding the presidential election--whether polls are worth the paper they are printed on and the way the media use them--that remains to be resolved tomorrow.  The rest of it was over weeks ago.

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