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Why I’m betting against the opinion polls

November 1st, 2005
    Take the 3/1 against Cameron getting below 66%

At the May 5th General Election one of my biggest wins came from betting against the opinion polls. From my analysis I was convinced that they were overstating Labour and I backed my judgment with a four figure amount per unit spread bet. notesAt a time when the likes of ICM, Populus and several others had the party in the 40s I bet that the equivalent of the GB share of the vote would be less than 38.6% – it finished up at 36.2%.

I have the same feeling today about the Tory membership polls on the leadership contest. Clearly Cameron looks a winner – but by how much? Is it really going to be by the 76-24 margin predicted by the Sunday ICM poll of members or could we see changes between now and when the result is announced on December 6th.

I’ve just placed several bets at 3/1 with Paddy Power against him getting below 66% of the votes. There are several reasons:-

  • Timing. The ballots do not go out until this weekend and there’s plenty of time for opinion to change.
  • Question Time and the Hustings. David Davis, surely, is going to do better than his conference speech? Given the level of expectations even an average performance on Thursday could be seen as a big plus.
  • Davis’s Campaign. The ICM survey took place just as the Davis policy offensive started. Some of what the 56 year-old is saying – lower taxes, ending of Labour’s “pension tax-grab” and the call for grammar schools – will resonate with members and could swing votes.
  • Cameron’s Campaign. The front-runner has sought to be less specific on policy than Davis and and this might raise question-marks.
  • Telephone Polls. These have a tendency to over-state support for a front-runner.
  • The Undecideds. The ICM poll had a quarter of respondents saying they had not made up their minds.
  • My betting position. I’ve backed Cameron heavily in a number of markets and the 3/1 is a cheap form of insurance.
  • The current vote share prices are: Cameron share of 0-65%3-1: 66-80% 4-9: more than 80% 9/2.

    Interestingly the full details of the ICM poll show that Cameron gets 81% support from male members but only 72% from females. In the North he’s getting 81% support compared with 71% in the Midlands and the the 39 year old gets a share of 82% from the over-65s compared with the 72% from the 55-64s.
    Mike Smithson






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