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Unable To Bet On The Election

Do we know what's going to happen during the 2020 American Election? I can tell you what's going to happen after. If Trump wins, streets with fill up with protesters in close to 100 countries. If Biden wins there will be protests as well, but largely confined to the US. How many other American elections have made this a near certainty? While not always for the right reasons, frequent voters have spent Trump's entire first term being heavily invested in the question of whether or not he will get a second. Here is why I think he won't.

  1. Biden is way ahead in the majority of swing states. To be sceptical of these pollsters, you would have to not only dismiss the claims that they improved their methodology in response to 2016 but also believe that they have accumulated several additional errors since then.
  2. Biden has displayed an almost Trump-like ability to make all criticism go away simply by saying "come on, man". While Biden's gaffes are very different from Trump's deliberate lies, both have a willingness to go off-script which a certain type of voter finds endearing.
  3. Institutional support has turned Trump into a standard-issue Republican devoid of any economically populist streak he may have once had.
  4. A sudden improvement in Trump's messaging would not do him much good since the number of people who have already voted is possibly half of what the eventual turnout will be.
  5. There's also a little thing called the coronavirus. Voters who have taken it upon themselves to analyse Biden's platform or compare the US to other countries probably don't need much convincing. But for everyone else, there is a stark difference between this politicized pandemic and past war-like crises which have usually served to bring the population together.

I tried to act on these suspicions by signing up for PredictIt but I cannot get them to accept my account. It looks like I will have to forego hopes of monetary gain and be satisfied with the modicum of relief that Biden's election brings.

Does anyone know the countries in which this website is supposed to work? Finding out is not so easy because the country detected for you when you sign up is stored permanently. Here's what I did. First I created an account from Oxford and tried to place a bet. The confirmation screen asked me to prove (by photo ID) that I was something I'm not: either an American resident or an American citizen living in the United Kingdom. UK resident was not an option so I assumed that PredictIt had simply been unable to negotiate with the authorities here.

Undeterred, I went looking for a free proxy through which to route HTTP requests. This turned out to be slightly annoying because many of the proxy lists out there are full of transparent proxies which mine your data without providing any type of location masking. To get around geographic censorship (without getting a VPN), you want at least an anonymous proxy. After I found one, I set Firefox to use it and verified that a simple test site registered my location as Germany. Despite this, PredictIt still showed the same two options. After this, I created a new account while behind the proxy and tried to place the same bet. This time it asked whether I was an American resident or an American citizen living in Germany. Still no luck. I should mention that this applies uniformly to all the markets on PredictIt — the list of options is the same whether I get there by expressing interest in the American election or Scottish independence.

I could keep trying but this would require me to make a new account with a new email each time. It currently looks like PredictIt tries to reject everyone who's not American which is very strange for a company that's based in New Zealand. If anyone has more detailed information on what the exact citizenships / residencies are that they look for, I would like to hear it.

Post-election update: It looks like I was wrong that polls had improved but right that Biden was far enough ahead for that not to matter. The Democrats now have four years to figure out that they should really be running candidates like Nina Turner. I will also be making about £30 off this development. At the last minute, I found out that Betfair (based in the UK) has a politics section which was giving Biden similar odds.