An Answer for Charles Adler

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In a recent broadcast, Charles Adler asked “How effective is the web?” in getting young people involved in elections. Well Charles, here’s one possible way to turn apolitical people into real junkies…

UBC’s Sauder School of Business has conducted an online, real-time Election Stock Market (UBC-ESM) during several Canadian federal and provincial elections since 1993. It’s based on a similar concept created at a university in the U.S.

UBC-ESM opened 2008/09/08 for trading on the current federal election, and will remain open from 4:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. PDT until 2008/10/14 (voting day).

Each individual account can be opened for a minimum $25. The maximum amount that may be invested per account is $1,000.

Although UBC-ESM itself operates on a not-for-profit basis (using the results for research and teaching on market and trader behaviour), individuals can purchase “shares” (or contracts) at the current market price and which they can subsequently trade.

Like any other market, the idea is to buy low and sell high. Investors bear the risk of losing money as well as earning profits.

At the close of the market, participants’ portfolios are purchased by the UBC-ESM at prices determined by the election results. Individual traders will earn profits or bear losses depending upon whether the final values of their portfolios exceed or are lower than their initial investments.

380 people invested about $96,000 during the last election. UBC-ESM was second among Canada’s pollsters and researchers in predicting the popular vote outcome and it tied for top spot in correctly foretelling the final parliamentary seat tally. “All the big pollsters produced seat projections that were completely off the mark.”

On the afternoon of the first day of this market, 70 traders had already invested $19,280.

“Market prices closely coordinate with developments that occur over the course of an election. Everything from leaders’ debates to campaign ads to political gaffes will cause significant price movements.”

Professor Tom Ross (UBC-ESM co-director) is quoted as saying it’s been proven that election stock markets like are capable of accurately predicting election results in Canada and the United State.

Professor Werner Antweiler (UBC-ESM co-director) is quoted as saying that UBC-ESM is a better predictor of an election outcome than polling. Respondents to a poll typically express support for the party that they want to win. But “Investing their own real money provides motivation to the traders.” But investors make a serious effort to honestly assess what they think the outcome will be because their money is at risk. “Your pocketbook is closer to your heart than your political preference … it’s a truth revelation mechanism.” Antweiler said.

During this election, there are a choice of four markets in which to invest:

  • Seats Share Market – the proportion of seats each party will get
  • Seats Plurality Market – simply pit the Liberals against the Conservatives
  • Popular Vote Market – the share of the popular vote they think each party will get
  • Majority Government Market – whether or not there will be a majority government and who it will be
  • To participate, go to www.esm.ubc.ca and follow the link in the navigation menu on the left. A trader’s manual is available there also.

    InTrade (http://www.intrade.com/) is a similar international market that offers political gamblers an opportunity to bet on the Canadian ballot.

    Sources:

    1. 2008/08/31 – Election stock market will follow money, not polls
    2. 2008/09/02 – Election ‘stock’ traders: Prepare your picks
    3. 2008/09/08 – UBC Press Release
    4. 2008/09/08 – UBC…tries for four straight election predictions
    5. 2008/09/08 – UBC starts election stock market with Tories leading the way
    6. 2008/09/10 – Betting on ballots
    7. 2008/09/11 – A million monkeys vs. the pollsters

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