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Historical Presidential Betting Markets

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  • Paul W. Rhode
  • Koleman S. Strumpf

Abstract

This paper analyzes the large and often well-organized markets for betting on U.S. presidential elections that operated between 1868 and 1940. Four main points are addressed. First, we show that the market did a remarkable job forecasting elections in an era before scientific polling. Second, the market was fairly efficient, despite the limited information of participants and active attempts to manipulate the odds. Third, we argue political betting markets disappeared largely because of the rise of scientific polls and the increasing availability of other forms of gambling. Finally, we discuss lessons this experience provides for the present.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul W. Rhode & Koleman S. Strumpf, 2004. "Historical Presidential Betting Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 127-141, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:18:y:2004:i:2:p:127-142
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/0895330041371277
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/0895330041371277
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Leigh, Andrew & Wolfers, Justin & Zitzewitz, Eric, 2003. "What do Financial Markets Think of War in Iraq?," Research Papers 1785, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    2. Colin F. Camerer, 1998. "Can Asset Markets Be Manipulated? A Field Experiment with Racetrack Betting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 457-482, June.
    3. Plott, Charles R & Sunder, Shyam, 1988. "Rational Expectations and the Aggregation of Diverse Information in Laboratory Security Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1085-1118, September.
    4. Fama, Eugene F, 1970. "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 383-417, May.
    5. Thaler, Richard H & Ziemba, William T, 1988. "Parimutuel Betting Markets: Racetracks and Lotteries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 161-174, Spring.
    6. Colin Camerer, 1998. "Can asset markets be manipulated? A field experiment with racetrack betting," Natural Field Experiments 00222, The Field Experiments Website.
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