There was a time when politics seemed much more straightforward than today. Before an election, the candidates and parties would campaign in a civilised way, either on the doorstep or on the TV or radio. The winning party would assume power, and everyone would get on with their lives.
Of course, things were not always that simple and there is an element of looking back with rose-tinted glasses. Over the years, all global leaders have faced challenges that affect our daily lives and shape our conversations: Margaret Thatcher had the Falklands War, the miner’s strike, the Irish troubles and the poll tax riots. Ronald Reagan had the Cold War. Tony Blair and George Bush had the Iraq War. And Gordon Brown had the global financial crash.
The impact of social media
The rise of social media has changed the landscape. Political opinions can now be shared with the world in an instant, echo chambers can be formed, and fake news can travel halfway around the world before the truth has even got its shoes on. Suddenly, everyone has a political opinion and can publish it on numerous platforms. This can even result in conflicts with random strangers, with both sides becoming further entrenched in their views.
This is the background against which recent UK elections, the Brexit referendum, and the 2016 US Presidential elections have been played out. During that time, populist parties have emerged, and social media has become a battleground where the line between truth and misinformation has been blurred. Though, this has been the case all across the world.
Betting on politics
As people have become more political, betting on political events has also grown in popularity. During the 2016 Brexit referendum, the odds were discussed on an almost daily basis on TV, with the bookmakers’ prices often steering the conversation as much as opinion polls. In the upcoming 2020 US elections, bookmakers are offering a range of markets. So, as well as checking the latest democratic nomination odds, you can also wager on the tipping point jurisdiction, district results, popular vote winner, and vote share amongst other things. This was unheard of even a decade ago.
Until recently, political betting was labelled under the “novelty bets” section of bookmakers websites. Now, there are whole pages dedicated to politics and political betting is big business. The 2016 US presidential election was the biggest non-sporting wagering event in history, and the 2020 election is likely to surpass that.
Crunching the numbers
Predicting political outcomes, however, is not straightforward. Candidates and political parties now employ whole teams of people and even contract data companies to try to analyse and influence voters through social media. Observers can track the current mood and even track data themselves to try and predict the outcomes of upcoming votes. Like sports, there is a wealth of information available to help bettors come to informed decisions. Political betting also appeals to audiences who may not be interested in betting on sports events.
Politics has changed and betting is now part of the new landscape. Wagering on politics is set to continue growing and will form part of future political coverage just as it does in sports.