In my recent entry in the Measurement series, I was chastised by @Cleitophon who pointed out that he came here for “…brutal empirical analysis about the electoral landscape – not this ephemeral theory…”. It’s a fair point, and one that I share. So, what empirical analysis can my small brain bring you? Let’s try the 2024 Finnish Presidential election, the first round of which is 28 January 2024.


What do I know about Finland? Not a lot. I knew a girl from Helsinki once. It has snow and gets dark. It has “In the Pirkinning”, the best Star Trek-Babylon 5 fan film ever made. Its martial prowess is legendary, including soldiers like Simo Hayha and Aimo Koivunen, it fought the Soviets and won-ish, its foreign policy was dominated by the USSR so much it became a gerund, it sends its sons out into the forest to fight with bow and arrow – or so “Big Game” informs me – and it hosts a shooting competition called “Finnish Brutality”.

Hmm. This is not helping, is it?

There is a serious point hiding in this verbiage. There are 193 full members of the United Nations, and this year 64 countries representing around 49% of the world population including India, US, UK, Russia, Mexico, and the EU are going to the polls. How are we going to cope with this?

What doesn’t work?

Let’s say one thing up front. We are not really good at international political betting. Those with local knowledge do well, and I’m sure that some of the dedicated punters like @DoubleCarpet can make a decent stab at this, but for most people it goes UK, US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, um. Even countries like Ireland and Israel we’re not very good at, getting lost in the woods. So now what?

Can we get local knowledge from somebody else? Hmm. In the French Presidential election I attended a lecture on it, and although it was alternately interesting and hilarious – Brits trying to pronounce the names of French politicians is an education, if not a good one – it didn’t really tell me things that would help from a betting perspective, because academics hum and haw. Local news media? Well yes, but it’s a slog. Can we do better?

I think we can.

What does work?

Let’s throw all the local knowledge away, the commentators, the pretending we know about things, and focus on the numbers. For any given election we have opinion polls, which is not much use because we don’t know how wrong they are. But we may *also* have opinion polls from previous elections, and now we can estimate how wrong they are, and suddenly we have a plan. How does this work for Finland 2024? It works like this.

Take the polls for the December before the January election for 2024, 2018, 2012, 2006. Calculate the difference between the highest and second-highest candidate. Do it again for the third. Plot on a graph

And what we get is this.

The polls

We can see from this that the lead has collapsed. In 2006 and 2012 the leading candidate was over 30% ahead in December, in 2018 that escalated to over 50%, but in 2024 it’s collapsed to single figures. So there may be an upset here: the second-placed candidate has a good chance. What do the odds say?

The odds

Table: Odds in the 2024 Finnish presidential election at 20 Jan 2024

Bookie1: Stubb2: Haavisto3: Halla-ahoLink
William Hill1.11 (1/9)7 (6/1)26 (25/1)Link
Betfair Ex1.151446Link


  • The first-placed candidate (Alexander Stubb of the National Coalition) is mispriced, being too short. The lead at this point is too small historically to justify such short odds.
  • The second-placed candidate (Pekka Haavisto of VIHR/Greens) is mispriced, being too long for such a small deficit.
  • The third-placed candidate (Jussi Halla-aho of Finns), despite the smaller deficit when compared historically, is probably correctly priced

Sanity check

The latest polls are 24%/21%/15%, which seems compatible with this assessment.


So here’s the Miranda Priestly bit. We can’t get to grips with foreign milieus anywhere fast enough, and there are too many of them. So by abandoning the inessential and focusing on the present and historical polls, we can estimate whether the odds are justified by the polls. For the 2024 Finnish presidential election I think they may not be and there is mispricing present. I refuse to take any responsibility if this is wrong and you must DYOR.


PS – This displaces the latest in the Measurement series because Cleitophon tasked me Joachim, he tasked me. This article is written off-the-cuff and is not fact-checked so apologies in advance for errors and misunderstandings and I give absolutely no warranty for any loss you may occur, so DYOR and don’t blame me if you lose the house and kids. The next entry is on political parties. Really really this time.

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