Archive for November, 2004

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Who’ll get the Volvo Vote?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004


Try this little test. Click on this link to go Upmystreet.com. Type in the postcode of a UK residential address that you want to check. Then click on the link marked ACORN PROFILE and go to “full profile” . You will then see an interesting description of how the marketing business assesses people who live there, how much they earn, what TV they watch, the things they buy and what papers they read etc.

Now ask yourself whether the profile is a fairly accurate reflection of people you know with that post-code?

It’s a system like this, but obviously more comprehensive than what’s available free on the net, that is at the heart of the Tory “Voter Vault” of which a lot has been written in recent weeks. Party campaigners are said to be using it to identify the characteristics of potential Tory voters in marginal seats so they can find specific individuals to target at the General election.

A similar databank used by the Republicans was said to have been at the heart of their campaigns in swing states like Ohio. Apparently the car you drive is a dead giveaway and Volvo drivers were almost certainly going for Kerry. In the UK Labour have their own data profiling system available.

What the Tories are hoping is that their system will allow them to identify and then focus fully on that select group of voters that really matter – those who might switch to the party in marginal seats. There’s no doubt that the data profiling techniques enshrined within Voter Vault do help commercial companies find new customers. But is this approach going to produce more seats for the Tories at the General Election?

    Everything depends not on the information itself but on how it’s used. Can they develop communication strategies that will cause people to switch?

You can see the data being used to generate bespoke letters and leaflets and they might develop a specific telephone script to deal with different groups. They are setting up a telephone campaign centre to use the information which will be focused entirely on marginal seats – many of which are in the Midlands.

Will it work? It might – but don’t hold your breath.

Latest Tory seats prices:-
0 – 220 10/11
245 + 12/5
221 – 228 5/1
229 – 236 6/1
237 – 244 15/2



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Markets edge further to Labour

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004


After three polls showing big Labour leads the betting markets have now caught up a little with the number of predicted Labour seats at the election increasing and the Tory numbers declining.

At IG the spreads are LAB 345-353: CON 194-202: LD 70-74. Sportingindex, meanwhile have LAB 344-352: CON 202-210: LD 70-74.. These are big differences between the two firms with IG attracting more Labour money and SI, seemingly, getting more pro-Tory bets.

What could affect the prices is the timing of the polls. The November YouGov survey is due out in the next few days and Populus should be reporting its December figures a week or so afterwards. What is significant is that these two pollsters are likely to show a smaller Labour position than those that report in the middle of the month – ICM, NOP and Communicate – and we expect a small Tory price recovery.

In spite of the price movements both main spread markets still have Labour totals below the 346-354 that they were on at the end of July.

For those not used to this sort of betting think of the spreads as a share price. If you think Labour will do better than the 352 seats that SI is quoting then you BUY at, say, £10 a seat. If they ended up with 372 seats your winnings would be twenty times your stake. If Labour got 325 seats then your losses would be 352-325=27 times your £10 stake – £270.

Our current CALL is don’t bet. The polls are all over the places; there are doubts about whether the votes/seat equation will work as it did last time and Labour’s margin is only just larger than the 6.6% average overstatement of 2001.

For the LDs our call is stay out as well. On June 16 2004 our CALL was BUY the Lib Dems when the spread was 54-58. On October 5 2004 we said SELL when the spread was 72-77 and take what for many was a very considerable profit. That was the highest price the LDs reached and our sell call was at the top of the market.

Tory backers should keep well away. There’s been no glimmer of good news in weeks and the sentiment is very much against them. If the polls and Baxter seat predictor are correct then a seat total of 160-170 seats might be the result. Wait until we get closer to the election when some value bets and better information might emerge.

Other political betting markets – click here.



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How good a pointer are local by-election results?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

    Be wary of the party spinners

As we get nearer the General Election pundits and punters will be looking beyond the opinion polls to find pointers as to what is going on.

One source that’s readily available are the results from the handful of local council by-elections that take place up and down the country almost every Thursday. For many years the results were aggregated and issued monthly as a sort of poll.

    These are real electors putting real votes in real ballot boxes and so, the argument goes, they are as good, if not better, a test of public opinion than the polls which only survey 1,000 to 2,000 people.

But be careful of all the party machines which seek to reinforce the morale of activists by selecting specific results and then extrapolating national trends.

We wondered whether the head of Populus, Andrew Cooper, might have been on the receiving end of such “spin” when he made this observation on the site yesterday “..local by-election results as well as national polls seem to suggest that Labour’s vote is hardening: if you average recent local by-elections in which all 3 main parties stood Labour lead by about 5% over the Tories, which wasn’t true at this point in the last Parliament.”

We follow the by-election results closely and could not work out where Andrew was getting his information from. If Labour was doing so well, the predictable response came, how come that it’s been the Tories and to a lesser extent the LDs who have been winning seats?

The Tory activist and regular contributor to the site, Sean Fear, then produced the following analysis of 24 wards where all three parties have stood since the start of October, and also stood in the previous election.

  • By-elections from June 2004 (5) : Con, 38%, Lab, 26%, LD 30%
  • By-elections from May 2003 (13) : Con 35%, Lab 30%, LD 27%
  • By-elections from May 2002 (5) : Con 34%, Lab 33%, LD 25%
  • By-elections from June 2001 (1) : Con 33%, Lab 42%, LD 19%
  • The big problem is that there are so few seats that fit the bill and it is hard to draw conclusions. Council by-elections usually have very low-turnouts and are probably a better indicator of the strength and morale of local party machines than they are of public opinion.

      In the year before the last General Election, it was possibly to look at the local by-election results and mistakenly conclude that the Tories and Lib Dems were doing much better than they did in the General Election.

    So far in 2004 the Tories have net gains of 15, the LD s have net gains of 4, and Labour is down 14 seats. We think this is pretty meaningless and we should be wary of those who seek to extrapolate large conclusions that they say apply to the nation as a whole.

    General Election seat markets:- Total Labour seats , Total Conservative seats , Total Lib Dem Seats.

    Mike Smithson



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    Why don’t punters believe the pollsters?

    Monday, November 22nd, 2004

      Are gamblers ignoring massive betting value?

    The spate of polls showing Labour shares in the late 30s with leads of upto 9% has, as expected, led to prices moving on the spread betting markets where punters gamble on how many seats each party will get at the General Election. SportingIndex have now shaved more off the Tories and increased Labour:- LAB 344-352 (+2): CON 202-210 (-2): LD 70-74 (n/c).

    Yet the prices are not back to the levels of late July when Labour was level-pegging with the Tories in the polls and the spread markets had the party on 346-354 seats.

      So a 1% Labour lead has become 9% but the spread is LOWER!

    If you put the November ICM poll figures with the 8% Labour lead into Martin Baxter’s seat calculator you get LAB 398: CON 157: LD 62. – a Labour majority of 148. Putting in this week’s NOP 9% lead and Labour get to 400 seats again with a majority of 154.

    On the face of it there is massive betting value out there that punters are simply ignoring. What’s going on? Why were they rushing to back Labour in July at 346-354 when there was 1% lead but not now the poll margin is so much bigger? And why, too, has the price on Labour getting 360+ seats MOVED OUT to 5/4? We put this down to three factors:-

  • The White House Race hangover. Many punters got their fingers burnt and lost millions between them on the night of November 2 when the White House race exit polls pointed to a Kerry victory. This was also a reminder about the power of the right in politics.
  • The polls are all over the place. ICM and NOP’s 8/9% leads follow on only a few days after the Populus 1% margin with the explanatory note about how ICM on the same basis would have the Labour lead 4% bigger.
  • There’s greater awareness of the tactical unwind affect. In July the notion that there might be something wrong in seat calculations based on a uniform national swing applied to the 2001 result was confined to one or two academics and some contributors to this site. Now it has become much more mainstream to recognise that the Lib Dems who switched to support Labour in the last two elections might go back to Charles Kennedy.
  • We think the punters are right to be wary. The coming General Election is extraordinarily hard to call. There’s a lack of trust in Tony Blair’s Government; the Tories are not seen as being credible and the LDs have still to climb out of the “wasted vote syndrome”.

    Keep your money in your wallet until things become clearer.

    Round-up of General Election and other political betting odds.

    SITE ENHANCEMENTS We’ve introduced a new element on the top right hand of the page showing the latest comments – just click to go straight there. This will allow users to see immediatly if there have been new comments since their last visit and will give prominence to new contributions to older discussions. It also lets me know if there has been a spam attack. Thanks to my son Robert for programming this.

    To make space for this and make the right column less cluttered we’ve tidied up our links section. Out go obvious links to the BBC and CNN etc – we assume most users have these on their favourites. The individual links to the polling firms have now been scrapped in place of “Latest Polls” and to Anthony Wells’s great new site “UK Polling Report”. We’ve kept the links to the individual pollsters’ historic UK polling data.



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    The Politicalbetting Top Ten – November 21 2004

    Saturday, November 20th, 2004


    Hilary moves to Number One top political bet

    With two new polls showing Labour leads of 8-9% the party has tightened even further to 1/7 for the General Election and punters have been looking elsewhere for betting value. Even though the next White House race is four years away it has moved to the top of the charts as the week’s most popular political bet.

    In a fairly light betting week punters have been looking for bets that give them a reasonable return and there’s a lot of interest in the General Election seat markets for the three main parties.

    The chart is compiled by listing in order the number of “click-throughs” to online book-makers from Politicalbetting.com. We do not know what people are betting on – just the markets they are interested in.

    THIS WEEK’s TOP TEN

  • 1. US President 2008 Hilary Clinton is still 5/1 favourite which looks good value given that you can only get 5/4 on her getting the Democratic nomination. If you are going to bet on the New York Senator then why not back her all the way? (Up from 3 last week)
  • 2. Tory Seats at the General Election. The declining Tory fortunes in the polls has led to this market coming into the Top 10 as a NEWCOMER this week. We don’t know whether punters are backing the favourite, 220 seats or less at 10/11, or if they see value at slightly higher numbers.
  • 3. Labour seats at the General Election. The range 360+ at 5/4 is still the favourite although it’s moved out from 6/5 in spite of the improved poll ratings. (UP from 7)
  • 4. Winning Party at General Election. Was number 1 market last week and maybe the tightening of the best bookie price on Labour to 1/7 and 0.19/1 with a betting exchange has made it less attactive.(DOWN from number 1)
  • 5. Winning party and leader for the General Election. If you find the 1/7 on the main market a bit steep then try the 1/4 on Labour and Blair on the Betdaq market. It’s hard to see any leadership change now. (NEWCOMER)
  • 6. Liberal Democrat seats at General Election. 61+ remains 1/3 favourite. (UP from 8 last week)
  • 7. General Election date Hot favourite getting tighter at 2/11 is April-June 2005. (DOWN from 4 last week)
  • 8. Next Pope? Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy is still 2/1 favourite. (UP from 9 last week)
  • 9. Democratic Candidate 2008 . Hilary Clinton is 5/4 favourite. (DOWN from 5 last week)
  • 10. 2012 Olympic City. Newcomer reflecting the interest following the bid submission. Paris tightens to 4/9 with London on 4/1. Before you bet check out Tradesports for the international prices.
  • Martin Baxter Changes Martin has now changed the URL for his site to http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/. This is where you should go now to access his General Election seat calculator. We’ve changed the link on this page.



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    Another way of looking at the ICM poll

    Friday, November 19th, 2004

    The statistics they never tell you
    As we predicted yesterday’s ICM poll in the Guardian pushed up Labour prices and depressed Tory ones on the spread, seat and overall winner markets.

  • The latest IG spreads are:- LAB 342-350 (+2): CON 198-206 (-2): LD 69-73 (+1).
  • SportingIndex is LAB 342-350: CON 205-213: LD 70-74 – the discrepancy based on the fact that they are using the old larget House of Commons – not the new reduced sized one.
  • The best boomaker price on Labour winning most seats has tightened further from 1/6 to 1/7
  • The Labour seats market now has the 360+ band as 5/4 favourite
  • But would the markets have moved if the Guardian had plastered all over their front page that the equivalent of nearly a quarter of those surveyed who said they had voted Labour last time were not going to do so again?

    The party’s ICM poll rating of 38% assumes that just one in ten of 2001 voters would not be going with them again. Yet the data from the poll seems to show otherwise.

  • The Labour vote in the November ICM survey was just 77% of those who said they had voted for the party in 2001
  • The Tory vote in the survey was 101% of those who said that had voted for the party last time.
  • The Lib Dem share, was 117% of those who said they voted for the party in 2001.
  • Opinion polls are not usually reported like this but you cannot easily dismiss the fact that such a large proportion of those saying they were Labour last time have apparently deserted the party.

    A lot of people would argue about the way we”ve worked out these number. Many of those surveyed say they’ve voted when they haven’t and Lib Dem supporters have a strong tendency to “forget” when polled where they put their cross. But the difference between those who told ICM they had voted Labour last time and those saying they will do so in the General Election is so substantial that it says something about they way polling surveys are processed.

    The ICM past voting weighting methodology has recently been criticised by Populus who say that if applied to their latest poll it would have increased the Labour margin by 4%. We think that the Labour position is weaker than ICM suggests.

    BETTING STRATEGY Given that in the main the polls that come out at the turn of each month, Populus and YouGov, tend to show lower Labour totals then punters wanting to bet on the party would be advised to wait for these when the prices might have eased. Similarly those wanting to bet against Labour or for the Tories should do so at this time in the month though we see no urgent reason to do so now.

    The division between the pollsters will reflect itself in the markets and you should time your bets accordingly.



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    Explaining Arbitrage – the sure way to profit

    Friday, November 19th, 2004


    The morning that Gordon Brown became favourite
    On the weekend on May 15 this year a rumour swept through the Westminster village about a family problem for Tony and Cherie Blair that people concluded would lead to him wanting to step down as Prime Minister. The media showed great restraint and the story was never covered.

    But punters “in the know” saw an opportunity for profit and by 10am on the Sunday morning heavy betting on Gordon Brown on Betfair made him favourite to be Labour leader at the General Election. This was the first time he’d been ahead of Tony Blair whose price eased to below evens.

    Two bookmakers were offering odds on Blair going before the General Election that were so out of line with the Betfair Labour leader price that it was possible to bet against Blair in one market and bet on him in another and be sure of a certain profit. At one point you could back Blair on Betfair at evens and bet against him on William Hill at 2/1.

      The arbitrage possibility occured because the average price on the two possibilities was greater than evens

    By adjusting your stake you were able to guarantee yourself a sure profit whatever the outcome. The only down-side was that you had to tie money up for, perhaps, a year.

    It’s not often that such a “sure thing” happens in betting and we were delighted at the time that a number of Politicalbetting.com users were able to avail themselves of the opportunity before the price moved more into alignment less than an hour later. As we know Tony Blair continued in office.

    We use this as an example of arbitrage as the first of a series of articles to explain betting terminology to those who are less familiar with the way things work. It is not usual for the odds to be so clearly out of alignment but the nature of political betting is that sometimes such possibilities arise.

    Other political markets.



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    Now ICM give Labour an 8% lead

    Thursday, November 18th, 2004

      Markets look set to move further to Labour

    Further evidence of improving Labour fortunes comes in today’s ICM poll in the Guardian which has:- LAB 38: CON 30: LD 22: UKIP 2 The story is online.

    The margin is one per cent less than an ICM poll last month which had Labour on 39% to the Tories on 30%. The Guardian in its myopic style never seems to recognise polls which it did not commission, even from ICM, and tells us wrongly that the poll shows the biggest gap since May 2003, when Mr Duncan Smith was facing his summer of discontent.

      The Guardian only discredits itself by presenting polls in this way. We expect better.

    Given that all the recent polls have shown the same trend there’s no doubt that the Tories are in serious trouble and we expect to see a move against the party on the spread markets and in the Labour and Conservative Commons seats markets.

    It is also likely that the best price on Labour winning most seats will tighten even further from the current 1/6 with a conventional bookies and 1/5 with a betting exchange.

    The only note of caution is to recall what Andrew Cooper of Populus observed earlier this month. If his firm had adopted the same approach to weighting previous voting as ICM then the Labour margin would have been 4% greater.

    It will be interesting to see how this month’s YouGov poll, expected at the end of next week, rates Labour. Throughout the whole of this year it has reported it in a small 33-36 range and in its Euro Elections poll only overstated Tony Blair’s party by 1.4%. If YouGov has Labour moving upwards then it would further underline that there is a trend.