Recently, I got a text message inquiring about the status of my Presidential Election betting articles, and the reality of the matter is that I hadn’t given it much consideration this year due to the fact that I have no idea what is going to happen. The majority of the time, I also felt as if I did not have the same level of value understanding that I had the previous year.
For the most part, I’m going to attempt to stay away from political commentary that isn’t directly connected to the betting elements of the site, but as everyone knows, it’s very difficult to keep the two completely apart. Due to the fact that this is an article, there is also a bit more latitude in terms of formatting. One thing that I would ask is that any comments attempt to stay fairly firmly focused on the betting elements of the discussion while avoiding opinion-based debate as it pertains to political topics.
NOTHING IN THE POLLS SHOULD BE BELIEVED.
This is something I stated four years ago when the candidates were Trump and Clinton, and it is something I am saying again today. If you wish to place any straight-up wagers on who will win the Electoral College, the polls should only be a small influence in your decision-making in that situation.
As a starting point, everyone should understand that polls are highly unreliable and that they are all based on very small sample sizes. Furthermore, I formerly worked as a supervisor at a telemarketing company, and I can confirm that many of the questions pollsters ask are worded in such a manner that they are likely to produce specific answers. Essentially, this is polling that is focused on outcomes.
Another issue to bear in mind is that people conducting the polls will often make what are referred to as “Dispositioning calls” that are not accurate. While it is clearly not recommended, individuals who are having trouble getting in touch with leads will often just press “Enter” on their keyboard all the way through, resulting in the calls being dispositioned as whomever happens to be first on the list. In general, we would sometimes inflate the number of successful surveys, but even in such instances, we trained the reps to do so in a manner that they would essentially mirror polls that had previously been conducted…”Six this way, four that way,” and other similar nonsense.
Another thing that people should bear in mind is that the sequence in which the candidates are presented when someone is asked a question may have an unintended impact on certain individuals. Ideally, the order of the candidates would be determined by randomization, but many surveys do not do so, and the candidate who has his or her name put first tends to have a small edge over the other candidate among those who are unsure. Some individuals aren’t really interested in participating in the poll, but they want to be courteous (and avoid being contacted nineteen more times that day), so they’ll simply say whatever the first choice the representative offers them without thinking about it. This is how I would estimate that a reasonable 25% of the calls would have the responders just going through the motions in this manner.
Keep in mind that even if the polls are theoretically correct, the outcomes will not be what they suggest. This is an essential point to remember. Essentially, many looked at the 2016 election results and came to the apparent conclusion that the polls had been grossly inaccurate in favor of Hillary Clinton. In aggregate, however, the polls were found to be within the margin of error, indicating that the results were accurate.
If you’re thinking about putting some late money down on the outcome of the Electoral College, another thing to keep in mind is that the National Polls are very, extremely unimportant. Because the Electoral College is not decided by the National Popular Vote, a Trump victory would not be based on a significant aggregate national polling miss, but rather on a few individual state polling misses…and from what I can tell, only Pennsylvania would have to miss (in Trump’s favor) outside of the aggregated margin of error for the state.