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New guest slot poster, Innocent Abroad on “Betting Past the Tribe”

January 10th, 2014

(Innocent Abroad has been posting on PB for nearly 10 years and was the first to coin the term OGH. He’s now joined the guest slot writing team)

Expect turnout to be lower next time

One of the attractions of betting on politics, perhaps, is that, unlike, say, betting on horseracing, there are no rules: no authority – other than the law itself – to determine what is or is not improper conduct. It should therefore be borne in mind that political betting attracts those who favour a libertarian approach to life – as we see in the longstanding phenomenon of the odds being far more favourable to the Conservatives than their poll ratings would seem to warrant. This is because most people who bet on politics are Tories, and are supporting their own side – a kind of tribalism, I suppose.  (I should perhaps say that, as a rule, I don’t place bets myself. And if I did, it would be to obtain a consolation if the Party whose policies I reckoned to be most inimical to my interests were to win.)

Is it possible to find a way to bet on politics that overcomes this interference? Put it another way: is political betting a way of deriving satisfaction from beating the odds or is it a way of demonstrating tribal support which doesn’t involve the downside of actual legwork (or worse: voting in a caucus for the candidate most likely to win the seat, rather than the one closest to your own view about foreign scum our European partners).

One possibility, surely, is to bet on turn-out. If the bookies don’t offer odds, no doubt your fellow Peebies will be happy to strike bets with you (whether they will honour them is another matter, but I expect you know who will and who won’t).

Turn-out has notoriously collapsed since the twentieth century.

Whilst this might be due to staffing cuts in local councils’ electoral registration offices, it’s more likely because there’s no real ideological division between the Parties since the collapse of communism (although we all like to pretend otherwise) and we “baby boomers” who are now starting to draw our old age pensions are the last generation to vote tribally. Only just over half of 30-year-olds voted last time, whilst three pensioners in four did so. This suggests that no matter how close the polls during the campaign tell us the election is going to be, turnout is likely to be lower next time than last.

Innocent Abroad