Bush Loses?

Handicapping the President

In the dog days of summer, the polls show George Bush and John Kerry running neck and neck in the race for the presidency. For incorrigible political junkies, Rasmussen Reports offers its daily tracking poll that shows Kerry whupping Bush 49 to 46 percent. A wonderfully comprehensive collection of the latest polling data is available at the invaluable Pollingreport.com website. There, the Zogby America poll (Aug. 12-14) finds Kerry trouncing Bush 50 to 43 percent. But the Gallup Poll (Aug. 9-11) sees Bush beating Kerry 50 to 47 percent. Kerry swings back in the Pew Research Center for the Press and the People survey (Aug. 5-10), triumphing over Bush 47 to 45 percent. In the ICR Excel Poll (Aug. 4-8) Kerry and Bush are tied at 46 percent each.

Still as one tracks the polls back toward the beginning of the month one finds that Kerry generally outpolls Bush.

Associated Press (Aug. 3-5)
Bush: 45 percent Kerry: 48 percent

Time (Aug. 3-5)
Bush: 44 percent Kerry: 51 percent

Democracy Corps (Aug. 2-5)
Bush: 45 percent Kerry: 52 percent

Investor's Business (Aug. 2-5)
Bush: 43 percent Kerry: 49 percent

Fox News (Aug. 3-4)
Bush: 43 percent Kerry: 47 percent

Marist (Jul. 30-Aug. 2)
Bush: 47 percent Kerry: 47 percent

ABC News (Jul. 30-Aug. 1)
Bush: 47 percent Kerry: 49 percent

But polls are not the only way to take the temperature of the electorate—one can also look at political markets. Probably the most famous of these are the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) run by professors at the University of Iowa. Researchers claim that such "prediction markets are considerably more accurate long-run forecasting tools than polls across elections and across long periods of time preceding elections." The IEM U.S. Presidential Election Winner Takes All Market offers futures contract such that a Bush contract will earn an investor $1 if he wins and $0 if he loses; the same for a Kerry contract. So what are the IEMs predicting about the 2004 election? So far the IEM Market shows Bush with a narrowing lead—the current market price for Bush contract is $0.508 and $0.493 for a Kerry contract.

Tradesports.com, headquartered in Dublin Ireland, also offers contracts on the presidential election. The Tradesports presidential election market is a sizable one, with around $1 million changing hands everyday. The Bush futures contract has fallen steeply over the past months, dropping from over 70 to 51.9 on August 18. Still, Tradesports' Kerry contract is at 47.3. So the political markets are still predicting a Bush win.

But now to the Bailey anecdotal poll. Over cocktails earlier this summer some 20 or so of my oldest friends from the University of Virginia were discussing the upcoming election. These friends are well off professionals who live in the DC suburbs who generally tend to hold conservative and libertarian political positions. They also all vote and in 2000 most of them voted for George Bush. Although there were a few holdouts, it is very clear that most of them are now trending strongly away from Bush. Why? This not a comprehensive list and not all agree with every item but it adds up to severe disappointment in the Bush Administration. Their top concerns include diminished civil liberties symbolized by the USA PATRIOT Act, the $530 billion Medicare drug boondoggle, a ballooning budget deficit, mismanaged military adventures overseas, limits on stem cell research and a further politicization of scientific research, and failure by Bush to make even token efforts to keep his campaign promises regarding school choice and privatizing social security.

Assessing the polls, the market trends and my friends, I have to disagree with my colleague Tim Cavanaugh—George Bush will not be president come January 21, 2005. Hmmmm--maybe I should snap up some of those Kerry contracts at Tradesports?

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