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"Interpreting the Predictive Uncertainty of Elections," Journal of Politics, April 2009, 612-626.
pdf file (1,448 KB).


This paper provides an interpretation of the uncertainty that exists on election morning as to who will win. It is based on the theory that there are a number of possible conditions of nature that can exist on election day, of which one is drawn. Political betting markets provide a way of trying to estimate this uncertainty. This type of uncertainty is different from polling standard errors, which estimate sample-size uncertainty. This paper also introduces a ranking assumption concerning dependencies across U.S. states. The assumption does well when tested using data for the 2004 presidential election and the 2006 Senate election. It is shown that if the ranking assumption is correct, the two political parties should spend all their money on a few states, which seems consistent with their actual behavior in 2004.


This paper is a substantially revised version of an earlier paper entitled "Predicting Electoral College Victory Probabilities from State Probability Data," November 2004. The ranking assumption, while simple, looks really good!