Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 18 No. 2 (Spring 2004)


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Historical Presidential Betting Markets

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Rhode, Paul W., and Koleman S. Strumpf. 2004. "Historical Presidential Betting Markets." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(2): 127-141.

DOI: 10.1257/0895330041371277


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.

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Rhode, Paul W.
Strumpf, Koleman S.


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