Where the Obama supporters are

Guess where these survey results are from (it is a properly-conducted random sample of a particular population):


If you guessed, NC State faculty, you are correct.  My friend and colleague Mike Cobb runs the Pack Poll which conducts a survey of NCSU students every semester. This semester they added a faculty component for the first time.

Intrade follow-up

Apparently, some Romney supporter was trying to manipulate the Intrade market today.  The market quickly recovered, but I think the movement towards Romney is still a residual effect.  Derek Thompson has details.

But this morning, something very weird happened on Intrade. Mitt Romney began the day trailing the president 60 to 40 (i.e.: his chance of winning was priced at 40%). Suddenly, Romney surged to 49%, and the president’s stock collapsed, despite no game-changing news in the press. The consensus on Twitter seemed to be that somebody tried to manipulate the market.

But the more interesting question might be: Could a campaign re-direct their tens of millions of marketing dollars to bid up the candidate’s stock price for a final month to bolster his Comeback Narrative in the press? We hashed it out with Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Michigan.

DT: What just happened?

JW: At around 9:57am this morning, I noticed something funny happening on InTrade: Obama’s stock was tanking, and this was happening in the absence of any concrete political news. Barnard College’s Rajiv Sethi alerted me over Twitter that this was really due to some unusual trades in the Romney stock (which then ultimately affect Obama)…

How much might this sort of manipulation have cost?

The total quantity of Romney stock traded between 9:57 and 10:03 was around $17,800. But that’s not the “cost” of this manipulation (if that’s what it was), because the buyer got stock in return. If we value that stock at 41 (rather than the higher price he paid), the net cost of this manipulation/error was about $1,250.

What did the trader get in return?

About six minutes where Romney’s stock rose sharply. Notice though that the effect disappeared very quickly. The Obama Flash Crash disappeared nearly as quickly as it appeared.

Two conclusions follow. First, you can manipulate prediction markets fairly easily. But second, you won’t get much bang for your buck…

How can we trust prediction markets if they are susceptible to this sort of manipulation?

Two observations:

  1. Yes, prediction markets are imperfect. But that’s not the point. The question is whether they are less imperfect at predicting elections than the alternative approaches. The evidence so far says that yes they are, and this evidence holds despite previous attempts at manipulating markets.
  2. But there are still smarter and dumber ways to read prediction markets. For instance, in this case, the Romney stock moved sharply, even in the absence of news. That should make you suspicious. Also, the Romney stock moved up, even though the Obama stock wasn’t moving down (at first). A more telling issue is that the Intrade prices moved sharply, but those on other prediction markets: the Iowa Electronic Markets, BetFair, and with the British bookies didn’t. That’s a big hint that there may be mischief afoot in the InTrade markets.

My conclusion is that there’s useful information in prediction markets, but you need to be careful in interpreting it.


Time to buy?

Don’t know what’s going on with Intrade– not clear at all why Romney should be gaining ground while forecast models have him losing it.  Then again, maybe the “bluffing” mentioned in my earlier post is getting through to Intrade users.  Seems like a strong buy to me.


Charts of the day

Love  that Ezra did a whole mega-post of last night’s debate in charts.  Here’s a couple of my favorites:

9) Obama: Romney’s military budget. “He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for…what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for.” Here’s how Romney plan for military spending compares to the Defense Department’s budget plan:

I mean, I knew Romney wanted irresponsible increases in military spending, but good God!  Is he planning for WWIII?  And I think we’re doing pretty okay at present levels.

16) Obama: U.S. military spending in context. ”We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10.” We can put that in pie chart form, thanks to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:

Photo of the day

The debate, what else.  From the N&O— this seemed like a particularly cool photo:

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama walk past each other on stage at the end of the last debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

America’s worst Senate candidate

Pity the poor Democratic party of Tennessee:

WHITES CREEK, Tenn. — The Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee has no campaign headquarters, a fundraising drive stuck at $278 and one yard sign. Not one type of yard sign. One sign…

But Clayton stands out. Nobody who has the opportunity he has — a major-party nomination for the Senate in a nail-biter election in which every Senate race has outsize importance — has so little chance of taking advantage of it.

In Wyoming, Democratic challenger Tim Chesnut is a long shot; his actual slogan is “Chesnut is the best nut for Senate.” But he at least has his party behind him. In Washington, Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner recently told a reporter to “go [expletive] yourself.” But he at least has raised nearly $1 million.

In Tennessee, Clayton’s policy ideas set him apart from many other Democrats: He is unusual in opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but he’s downright exceptional in saying that the Transportation Security Administration “mandates [transsexuals] and homosexuals grabbing children in their stranger-danger zones.”

The article looks at the collapse of the Democratic Party in TN.  Kind of amazing that this is what we get in Tennessee, while Democrats can still mount serious challenges in places like the Dakotas and Montana.

Romney’s Bluff

Really nice piece from Chait about something I was starting to notice in debate coverage– the idea that Romney is winning.  He’s not, of course.  He’s certainly close as hell, but in no objective sense is he actually winning.  Apparently, not enough journalists are checking in on Nate Silver.  So, why is this idea taking hold?  Because Romney’s campaign is bluffing and too many un-thinking journalists are buying it.  As Chait points out, this certainly worked well for GWB in 2000:

In recent days, the vibe emanating from Mitt Romney’s campaign has grown downright giddy. Despite a lack of any evident positive momentum over the last week — indeed, in the face of a slight decline from its post-Denver high — the Romney camp is suddenly bursting with talk that it will not only win butwin handily. (“We’re going to win,” said one of the former Massachusetts governor’s closest advisers. “Seriously, 305 electoral votes.”)

This is a bluff. Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy…

Karl Rove employed exactly this strategy in 2000. As we now know, the race was excruciatingly close, and Al Gore won the national vote by half a percentage point. But at the time, Bush projected a jaunty air of confidence. Rove publicly predicted Bush would win 320 electoral votes. Bush even spent the final days stumping in California, supposedly because he was so sure of victory he wanted an icing-on-the-cake win in a deep blue state. Campaign reporters generally fell for Bush’s spin, portraying him as riding the winds of momentum and likewise presenting Al Gore as desperate…

The current landscape is slightly different. The race is also very close, but Obama enjoys a clear electoral college lead. He is ahead by at least a couple points in enough states to make him president. Adding to his base of uncontested states, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin would give Obama 271 electoral votes. According to the current polling averages compiled atfivethirtyeight.com, Obama leads Nevada by 3.5 percent, Ohio by 2.9 percent, and Wisconsin by 4 percent…

Obama’s lead is narrow — narrow enough that the polling might well be wrong and Romney could win. But he is leading, his lead is not declining, and the widespread perception that Romney is pulling ahead is Romney’s campaign suckering the press corps with a confidence game.

How’s that for liberal media bias?

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