Tips for Betting on Political Markets (UK and US Elections)

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Sportsbooks can tell you a lot about the state of the world. It’s not all about Premier League form or the latest movements in the transfer market. Most sportsbooks will also let you bet on UK and US elections, and those bets are usually available months and even years before the actual election. For instance, if you had checked US election markets a year ago, you would have seen odds for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to be the next US president, along with what seemed like every other major US celebrity.

Unless we vote for Lord Alan Sugar to be our next Prime Minister, that probably won’t happen here, but political markets have been busy over the last few years. With this month’s election firmly in the public consciousness, and the US Presidential Race gaining traction, it will be even busier in 2024.

It’s the perfect time to offer some election/political betting advice.

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Expect the Unexpected

When Donald Trump first announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, he was thousands to one on. The odds were akin to when Leicester City won the Premier League, which happened just a year later. As Trump gained ground and the election approached, those odds dropped, but even on election day, he was still the outsider.

It was a similar story during Brexit, with the odds heavily in “Remain’s” favour.

But the bookies got it wrong on both occasions, and these are just two examples. Truth be told, they often get it wrong, as it’s very hard to predict the outcome of a political race. Sure, they have polls and historical data, but that presents another problem…

Take Polls With a Pinch of Salt

Polls can tell you where the general public is leaning. They can be a good indicator of political opinion, but they are far from perfect.

Polls take a limited group of people and ask them who they are voting for, and that presents a couple of problems. Firstly, we have a First Past the Post system. We vote for candidates to represent constituencies, as opposed to voting for parties as a country. The opinions of a thousand people in London won’t tell you much about the eventual outcome. Pollsters do account for this, but their methods aren’t perfect, and it’s not the only issue.

Political preference can be a sensitive topic for some. If you live in the north of England and come from a family of diehard Labour voters, you’re probably going to stay quiet if you support the Conservatives. You may also hide the truth if someone stops you on the street and asks who you’re voting for.

Polls can indicate the current strength of a particular party by asking long-term members if they will still vote for their preferred party. But we’re living through a time of great instability and change right now. A lot of people are angry. Many have changed their opinions and alliances, and pollsters seem to be getting a lot of “don’t knows” in response.

So, check polls and use them as a foundation, but don’t take them as gospel.

Bet Early (if you can)

The odds change significantly as the election approaches. Parties change their cabinets, make mistakes, and get embroiled in controversies, and all of this has a significant impact on the odds and their chances.

Usually, the eventual winner is priced significantly higher a year or so before the election than they are within weeks of the big day. Just imagine if you were one of the lucky few to bet on Trump when he announced his candidacy.

Summary: Election and Political Betting

The summer of 2024 is going to leave a lasting impact on the UK political landscape, and the US will have its own major election toward the end of the year. There will probably be some shocks, there will certainly be some drama, and while there are bigger things at play, that doesn’t mean you can’t wager a few quid and see how things go.

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