The purpose of this bet is mainly to get practice doing research, following news, and increasing / decreasing my stake as I gain / lose confidence in the position I've taken. I'm finding that it's increasing my motivation to get a web-scraper running on AWS.
Things I'm learning from this experience
- The degree to which you should diversify your bets depends in part on the degree to which you can see trouble coming and get out of the way before everyone else does.
- While reading about investing I had heard these two philosophies of choosing how many different investments to pursue:
- Don't put all of your eggs in one basket / diversify
- Put all of your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.
- This is what Warren Buffett / Charlie Munger tell people is their strategy. Munger also talks about how it'd be best to imagine yourself with a limit to 20 investments over the course of your life (the "hole puncher" analogy).
- I had trouble reconciling them; they both seemed to make sense.
- When I was using the Kelly betting formula to decide how large to make my bet, I realized that a major factor in whether to diversify is the degree to which you can jump out of the bet if it starts to go sour.
- If you can't jump out of the bet, you should bet smaller percentages of your bankroll.
- So, for example, if you're betting on a horse race or a basketball game, once the event begins you can't modify your bet (AFAIK). So you should limit your bet size to a percentage of your total bankroll that accounts for the percentage chance that you'll lose the bet, even assuming the odds are in your favor.
- On the other hand, if you can jump out of the bet, and you think you would be able to spot problems sooner than others, you should be willing to bet larger percentages of your bankroll and then watch closely for any signs of trouble (which is what Warren Buffett is referring to).
- While reading about investing I had heard these two philosophies of choosing how many different investments to pursue:
- RealClear Politics - 2016 Republican Primary
- RealClear Politics - 2016 Early Primary State Polls
- RealClear Politics - Latest Polls
- PollingReport.com - White House 2016: Republican Nomination
Betting / prediction sites
- PredictIt - Will Donald Trump win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination?
- OddsChecker - US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2016 - REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE BETTING ODDS
- Good Judgment™ Open - Who will win the Republican Party nomination for the US presidential election?
Data on past primaries
Articles I need to organize
- 2015.12.12 - Politico - Ann Selzer's secret sauce
- 2015.11.17 - Columbia Journalism Review - Iowa’s Ann Selzer on what journalists need to know about polling
- 2012.02.07 - LA Times - Caucuses, primary a chance to gain momentum, if not delegates
- 2007.03.25 - Boston Globe - The momentum equation
- 2015.12.14 - Des Moines Register - 'Big shakeup' in Iowa Poll: Cruz soars to lead
- 2014.11.14 - FiveThirtyEight - Here’s Proof Some Pollsters Are Putting A Thumb On The Scale
- 2015.12.23 - FiveThirtyEight - Harry’s Guide To 2016 Election Polls
- 2012.01.30 - FiveThirtyEight - The Incredible Shrinking Primary Bounce
- 2015.12.02 - WashPo - Ted Cruz is the sleeping giant in the Republican race
- 2015.12.02 - WashPo - A radical proposal for Jeb Bush to save the GOP from Donald Trump
- 2015.12.23 - WashPo Editorial Board - Despite what Donald Trump says, Americans are better than this
- 2015.12.23 - Atlantic - The Real Secret to Trump's Success
- 2015.12.20 - Daily News - Face it: Trump’s the true GOP favorite now
- 2015.12.28 - Salon - Bernie does what GOPers won’t: Unlike chicken Republican candidates, Sanders not afraid to hammer Trump
- 2015.12.28 - Salon - Jeb Bush’s money won’t save him: Deluging New Hampshire voters with ads will likely backfire
- 2015.12.28 - Salon - Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed”
- 2016.01.07 - NYT - Op-Ed: How Donald Trump Loses
Attacks on Trump
- I suspect this is the most-likely way that Trump would lose, but I'm not convinced Republicans hate Trump enough to go after him with the necessary ferocity.
- 2015.12.04 - Miami Herald - Top Bush donor pays for ad attacking Trump
Signs that people may be coming around to the idea of a Trump nomination
- 2015.12.24 - RealClear Politics - Colbert: Nice to Know Political Establishment Can't Control The 36% Trump GOP Vote
- 2015.12.24 - RealClear Politics - Trump Warns: "I Haven't Really Gone After Hillary Yet And There's A Lot To Go After"
- Note the way the Fox reporter talks to him, acknowledging that he may actually win the nomination.
Misc info sources
Articles on the betting odds
- 2015.11.10 - Bovada - Rubio Leads Republican Odds Heading Into Fourth Debate
- 2015.12.14 - Bovada - Trump Trails Rubio Heading into Latest Republican Debate
Articles supporting a prediction that Trump will lose
- 2015.08.22 - NR - A Deep Dive into Trump’s Poll Numbers Shows Most Pundits Get Him Wrong
If these were all the data, we would have to conclude that Trump is currently a strong candidate to win the nomination. But these aren’t all the data, and other information suggests that Trump will have a very hard time building on his current support in later races. We can see this from two other questions polls often ask — namely, whether voters have a favorable or unfavorable impression of a candidate and whether voters cannot support a candidate under any circumstances. Trump polls much more poorly on these questions than he does on questions of voter preference. Trump’s favorable-to-unfavorable ratio is the lowest of the major candidates’. His positive rating always ranges between 52 and 44 percent, whether the poll is of national or state voters. His negative rating always ranges between 33 and 46 percent, and is usually in the 38–43 range. Most major Republican candidates are getting positive ratings in the 60s and low 70s, with negative ratings well below 20 percent. Even Jeb Bush has significantly higher positives and lower negatives than Trump. Christie, Graham, and Pataki are typically the only candidates thought of less highly than Trump. Moreover, Trump receives the highest “would never vote for” ratings among the major candidates. A Quinnipiac national poll taken before the debate, for example, found that 30 percent of Republican-primary voters would never support Trump, the highest number among all the candidates. A late-July Fox national poll similarly found that 33 percent of GOP voters would never support Trump in the primary, a share that only Christie, Pataki, and Graham exceeded.
- 2015.09.25 - NR - Four Easy Steps for Beating Donald Trump
Four bankruptcies, three wives, two parties, one big problem for America. That six-second tagline to an ad sums up why, when the chips are down, the Donald’s getting fired. This mantra will take Trump down because his appeal rests on trust. Voters angry with elites for various reasons trust that Trump will have their backs in office. But the 4-3-2-1 line of attack shows why exactly the opposite is true.
Trump will still have his backers after this barrage, but someone who has risen fast can also fall fast. About one sixth of the GOP electorate has gone from disliking Trump six weeks ago to liking him now. This soft support is the difference between an annoying but harmless Trump sitting at 15–18 percent and a terrifying Trump sitting at 30–35 percent. These lines of attack will remind soft supporters exactly why their initial instincts about the Donald were right.
- 2015.12.14 - FiveThirtyEight - Polls Suggest Trump Will Win Between 8 Percent And 64 Percent Of The Vote
- This is a good article.
- MI: Most of the voters who will eventually decide the Republican nomination haven't yet made up their mind.
You can see there’s definitely a correlation. Six of the 12 eventual nominees were leading at this point in the national polls. But they were all polling better than Trump is now. Not only that, but 52 percent of the variation in the eventual results go unexplained. That’s a mathy way of saying that a lot tends to happen from this point on. There have been collapses: Giuliani in 2008 and John Glenn in 1984. There have been surges: Barack Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004. Glenn, for example, consistently polled as well or better than Trump is nationally and in the early primary states, and Glenn fell off the map completely once voting began.
Put another way, past campaigns suggest that 95 percent of the time, Trump’s eventual percentage of the national primary vote will be between 8 percent and 64 percent. And there’s reason to think Trump will end up on the lower end of that range. He doesn’t have a single endorsement from a governor or member of Congress, and those endorsements have historically been predictive of the eventual winner. [NW: But Jeb had all of those and did terribly, right?]
- 2015.11.04 - FiveThirtyEight - The GOP’s Primary Rules Might Doom Carson, Cruz And Trump
- 2015.11.23 - FiveThirtyEight - Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls
- 2015.11.16 - New Yorker - Politics and the New Machine
- This is a good article but its main argument seems to be that polling is bad for democracy because it leads to populism / direct democracy, rather than that Trump isn't actually to win based on his polling numbers.
From the late nineteen-nineties to 2012, twelve hundred polling organizations conducted nearly thirty-seven thousand polls by making more than three billion phone calls. Most Americans refused to speak to them. This skewed results. Mitt Romney’s pollsters believed, even on the morning of the election, that Romney would win. A 2013 study—a poll—found that three out of four Americans suspect polls of bias. Presumably, there was far greater distrust among the people who refused to take the survey.
The modern public-opinion poll has been around since the Great Depression, when the response rate—the number of people who take a survey as a percentage of those who were asked—was more than ninety. (...) A typical response rate is now in the single digits.
Using methods designed for knocking on doors to measure public opinion on the Internet is like trying to shoe a horse with your operating system. Internet pollsters can’t call you; they have to wait for you to come to them. Not everyone uses the Internet, and, at the moment, the people who do, and who complete online surveys, are younger and leftier than people who don’t, while people who have landlines, and who answer the phone, are older and more conservative than people who don’t. Some pollsters, both here and around the world, rely on a combination of telephone and Internet polling; the trick is to figure out just the right mix. So far, it isn’t working. In Israel this March, polls failed to predict Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory. In May in the U.K., every major national poll failed to forecast the Conservative Party’s win.
“It’s a little crazy to me that people are still using the same tools that were used in the nineteen-thirties,” Dan Wagner told me when I asked him about the future of polling. Wagner was the chief analytics officer on the 2012 Obama campaign and is the C.E.O. of Civis Analytics, a data-science technology and advisory firm. Companies like Civis have been collecting information about you and people like you in order to measure public opinion and, among other things, forecast elections by building predictive models and running simulations to determine what issues you and people like you care about, what kind of candidate you’d give money to, and, if you’re likely to turn out on Election Day, how you’ll vote. They might call you, but they don’t need to.
With the turn to the secret ballot, beginning in the eighteen-eighties, the government began supplying the ballots, but newspapers kept printing them; they’d use them to conduct their own polls, called “straw polls.” Before the election, you’d cut out your ballot and mail it to the newspaper, which would make a prediction. Political parties conducted straw polls, too. That’s one of the ways the political machine worked.
Straw polls were usually conducted a few days or weeks before an election. This August, to cull the field for the first G.O.P. debate, Fox News used polls conducted more than four hundred and sixty days before the general election. (These early polls have become so unreliable that neither Gallup nor Pew conducts them.)
A century ago, newspapers that wanted to predict the outcome of a Presidential election had to join forces. In 1908, the New York Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Chicago Record-Herald, and the St. Louis Republic tallied their straws together. William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers did the same thing. But the best predictions were made by a national magazine, the Literary Digest, beginning in 1916. It regularly miscalculated the popular vote, but for a long time it got the Electoral College winner right. In 1920, the Digest mailed out eleven million ballots. By 1932, its mailing list had swelled to twenty million. Most of those names were taken from telephone directories and automobile-registration files. George Gallup was one of the few people who understood that the Digest risked underestimating Democratic votes, especially as the Depression deepened, because its sample, while very big, was not very representative: people who supported F.D.R. were much less likely than the rest of the population to own a telephone or a car.
When Gallup started out, he was skeptical about using a survey to forecast an election: “Such a test is by no means perfect, because a preelection survey must not only measure public opinion in respect to candidates but must also predict just what groups of people will actually take the trouble to cast their ballots.” Also, he didn’t think that predicting elections constituted a public good: “While such forecasts provide an interesting and legitimate activity, they probably serve no great social purpose.” Then why do it? Gallup conducted polls only to prove the accuracy of his surveys, there being no other way to demonstrate it. The polls themselves, he thought, were pointless.
Donald Trump doesn’t have a campaign pollster, but, while he was leading them, his campaign loved polls. Polls admitted Trump into the first G.O.P. debate and polls handed him a victory. “Donald J. Trump Dominates Time Poll,” the Trump campaign posted on its Web site following the August debate, linking to a story in which Time reported that forty-seven per cent of respondents said that Trump had won. Time’s “poll” was conducted by PlayBuzz, a viral-content provider that embeds quizzes, polls, lists, and other “playful content” items onto Web sites to attract traffic. PlayBuzz collected more than seventy-seven thousand “votes” from visitors to Time’s Web site in its instant opt-in Internet poll. Time posted a warning: “The results of this poll are not scientific.”
The statistician Nate Silver began explaining polls to readers in 2008; the Times ran his blog, FiveThirtyEight, for four years. Silver makes his own predictions by aggregating polls, giving greater weight to those which are more reliable. This is helpful, but it’s a patch, not a fix. The distinction between one kind of poll and another is important, but it is also often exaggerated. Polls drive polls. Good polls drive polls and bad polls drive polls, and when bad polls drive good polls they’re not so good anymore.
Douglas Rivers is a professor of political science at Stanford who is also the chief scientist at YouGov. He started trying to conduct public-opinion surveys via the Internet in the nineties, and has done much of the best and most careful work in the field. When he co-founded Knowledge Networks and conducted polls through Web TV, he used probability sampling as an alternative to quota sampling. The initial response rate was something like fifty per cent, but over time the rate fell into the single digits. Then came the Internet crash. “We slimmed down,” Rivers told me when I visited him in Palo Alto. “I went back to teaching.”
Rivers then started a company called Polimetrix, which he sold to YouGov for an estimated thirty-five million dollars. There he developed a method called “matched sampling”: he uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which surveys a million people a year, to generate a random sample according to “fifteen variables of representativeness” and to determine who will participate in polls. “You get a million people to take the poll, but you only need a thousand, so you pick the thousand that match your target population,” he explained to me.
The best and most responsible pollsters, whether Democratic, Republican, or nonpartisan, want nothing so much as reliable results. Today, with a response rate in the single digits, they defend their work by pointing out that the people who do answer the phone are the people who are most likely to vote. Bill McInturff, of Public Opinion Strategies, told me, “The people we have trouble getting are less likely to vote.” But the difficulty remains. Surveying only likely voters might make for a better election prediction, but it means that the reason for measuring public opinion, the entire justification for the endeavor, has been abandoned.
Donald Trump is a creature of the polls. He is his numbers. But he is only a sign of the times. Turning the press into pollsters has made American political culture Trumpian: frantic, volatile, shortsighted, sales-driven, and anti-democratic.
- 2015.12.12 - WashPo - The Des Moines Register poll confirms it: Ted Cruz is the Iowa frontrunner
- 2015.12.24 - FT - Look beyond the polls for the real odds on Donald Trump
A cruise through the betting websites (PaddyPower, Bovada, Intrade, the University of Iowa’s futures contracts and so on) paints a much less volatile — though not static — picture, in which Mrs Clinton has strengthened her standing. (...) She is trailed by Mr Rubio at 400, Mr Trump at 600 and Mr Cruz at 1000*. It may be noted that the oddsmakers rank Mr Trump only second favourite to win the GOP nomination, in sharp contrast to the opinion polls that have him ahead by streets. They must have some faith that the party establishment — which loathes both Messrs Trump and Cruz — will find a way of asserting itself.
Of course stuff does happen and change the odds, as when people actually cast a vote rather than express opinions. Before the Iowa caucuses in 2008 Mrs Clinton was given a 70 per chance of winning the Democratic nomination against Mr Obama with 25 per cent. Even after the caucuses, which he won, she was given a 52-44 per cent edge. By April, however, with several big state primaries remaining in her strongholds, he was north of 80 per cent while she was logging in at barely 12 per cent.
Testimonials from people who have dealt with Trump
- 2015.11.04 - NY Daily News - The ugly art of Trump’s deals: A businesswoman reveals how she finally got Donald to pay his bills
Articles supporting a prediction that Trump will win
- 2015.12.13 - NR - Losing Iowa Could Be Trump’s Kryptonite
David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the Hoover Institution say the demographics of Trump voters suggest they might not show up at the caucuses after all. Trump supporters are largely older, less wealthy, and less educated. Half of his voters have a high-school diploma, but just 19 percent have a college degree. Just over a third earn less than $50,000, while 11 percent make six figures or more. As pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson pointed out at NRO last week: “There is plenty of data to suggest that Trump voters are less likely to vote than others.”
Luntz doesn’t see Trump fading before Iowa votes, but his research shows a potential vulnerability if Trump is “shown to have hurt people who have worked for him.” Karl Rove, who was White House political director under George W. Bush, has hinted that those ads are coming. He wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday:
Democrats would attack Mr. Trump, a target-rich candidate, with an endless stream of ads. Perhaps they would open with his immortal line from the Cleveland debate — that he had “taken advantage of the laws of this country” in having his companies declare bankruptcy four times. This footage might be followed by compelling testimony from contractors, small-business people, and bondholders whom he stiffed. America has never elected a president with that kind of a dubious business record.
Among people who have done business with Trump are many who feel they have been abused by him. Tama Starr, president of the sign-design company Artkraft Strauss (which lowered the Times Square silver ball that marked New Year’s Eve for decades), has written about what she calls “the ugly art of Trump’s deals.” She and others have told me that it’s common for Trump to pay 80 percent of a project, withhold the remainder of what is owed by claiming dissatisfaction with the work, and then force creditors to either give up on payment or engage in expensive litigation that might cost more than the money owed.
- 2015.12.13 - NJ.com - 5 things to know about latest GOP polls (and where Trump stands)
Cruz's gains are coming at Carson's expense.
Most of the respondents were called after Trump's comments and the NBC/Journal and Register/Bloomberg polls showed his support rising, not falling.
In addition, a plurality of likely Iowa caucus goers in both the Fox and Register/Bloomberg polls said Trump had the best chance of defeating former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nominee.
- 2015.12.21 - WND - Phyllis Schlafly: Trump is 'last hope for America'
- 2015.12.21 - LA Times - Polls may actually underestimate Trump's support, study finds
The analysis, by Morning Consult, a polling and media company, looked at an odd occurrence that has cropped up repeatedly this year: Trump generally has done better in online polls than in surveys done by phone.
The firm conducted an experiment aimed at understanding why that happens and which polls are more accurate -- online surveys that have tended to show Trump with support of nearly four-in-10 GOP voters or the telephone surveys that have typically shown him with the backing of one-third or fewer.
Their results suggest that the higher figure probably provides the more accurate measure. Some significant number of Trump supporters, especially those with college educations, are "less likely to say that they support him when they’re talking to a live human” than when they are in the “anonymous environment” of an online survey, said the firm's polling director, Kyle Dropp.
The most telling part of the experiment, however, was that not all types of people responded the same way. Among blue-collar Republicans, who have formed the core of Trump's support, the polls were about the same regardless of method. But among college-educated Republicans, a significant difference appeared, with Trump scoring 9 points better in the online poll.
The most likely explanation for that education gap, Dropp and his colleagues believe, is a well-known problem known as social-desirability bias -- the tendency of people to not want to confess unpopular views to a pollster.
Blue-collar voters don't feel embarrassed about supporting Trump, who is very popular in their communities, the pollsters suggested. But many college-educated Republicans may hesitate to admit their attraction to Trump, the experiment indicates.
- 2015.11.24 - Yahoo - Ted Cruz has always had a master plan. Now it could win him the White House.
- 2015.12.21 - Yahoo - Democrats want Ted Cruz to be the GOP’s nominee. They should be careful what they wish for.