It seems like some of the PredictIt.org binary options players are excited to give away money again. While there is little to no value in the impeachment market anymore, (which we will discuss first just to get it out of the way) there is no shortage of values out there as relates the Trump Presidency.
In order, we’re going to look at the markets for impeachment, Trump finishing his first term, Trump to become the Republican nominee for President, and indeed, Trump to win it again in 2020.
First, I must encourage you to keep in mind that all of this is based on one man’s semi-educated opinion of past election history, recent political developments and takes that have been espoused on the legendary fivethirtyeight.com, which make total sense to me. The second thing that I would caution the reader is that many of these political markets will take a long time to resolve, (the event will either happen or not happen on/before the appointed date) so you will float your money for a long time on any of these binaries before the results are in.
Finally, rather than boring you with endless math problems regarding the PredictIt.org fee structure in the middle of my analysis, we will just address the fee structure at the end. Everything between now and the end will just focus on direct (before fees) value.
Impeachment and/or Removal from Office
The first binary that we will look at involves the potential for Impeachment and/or Removal from Office. It is important for the reader to note that these are two separate events. It only takes a majority vote in the House of Representatives for Articles of Impeachment to be levied against the President. These articles of impeachment are then sent to the Senate during which time a continued investigation and hearing (much like a trial) takes place. In order for the President to actually be removed from office, two-thirds of the voting body would need to vote in favor.
Regardless of whether or not the Senate finds any actual wrongdoing after investigating the matter, and the wrongdoing would have to be incredibly substantial for the Senate to remove, there are still serious political considerations that would take place. The Senate is majority Republican and a majority of that majority comes from states that Trump won handily. Also, despite a fivethirtyeight.com aggregate approval rating of 41.6% as of 4/19/2019, the vast majority of Republicans are satisfied with the job he is doing. In other words, if you’re a Senate Republican, removing Trump from office may not be the best or most popular thing when it comes to YOUR political future.
There are currently two binary options that stand out to me as relates the questions of Impeachment and/or Removal from Office. The first one is Impeachment:
With the, “Yes,” selling for $0.16 per share and the, “No,” selling for $0.84 per share.
Personally, I see some serious value even there because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has directly said that she has no immediate plans to pursue Impeachment of Trump. As far as the supposed end all and be all, the Mueller Report, Republican Mitt Romney had this to say.
Feel free to take a look at that, but just know that the big takeaway is that there are no findings that President Trump colluded with any foreign entities regarding the election, and further, that there was no evidence uncovered that would lead to charges of obstruction of justice.
With that, any cause that Pelosi would have had to waver from her position is essentially completely gone. Any further investigations by any other entity would take substantial time to complete, and even if wrongdoing were found, the House of Representatives itself would have to investigate it before bringing forward Articles of Impeachment.
It also merits consideration that Trump is an extremely unpopular President amongst the self-described, “Left,” and is also not terribly popular amongst independents. These results:
From Gallup show that the President’s approval rating amongst Independents generally floats between 35-40% consistently, which is exactly where the Democrats should want it to be. Well, they want it to be worse than that, of course, but I’m sure they’ll take anything below 50%.
In the meantime, fewer than 10% identifying as Democrats approve of the job that he’s doing, which is pretty expected given the recent divisiveness and increasing lack of bipartisanship pervading this country, but these are still numbers you should want as a Democrat.
Quite simply, this sets Trump up to perform at his 46.1% in the 2020 popular vote, if not worse. If I’m the Democratic leadership, I wouldn’t want to remove a President who is in a weak position in terms of popularity in favor of an unknown. If I can go in knowing we just have to copy what Hillary did (popular vote wise) in 2016, get some Obama-Trump Blue Dog Democrat voters back (particularly in the Midwest) and just appeal to Independents in the swing states...that’s a great position to find oneself in.
If nothing else, any attempt at Impeachment and/or subsequent removal from office, if nothing else, might galvanize even more Republicans or would-be Republicans to hit the ballot box in 2020. The last thing that you want as a Democrat is people with a favorable opinion of Trump who did not vote in 2016 to get around to doing so in 2020 because you’ve p***ed them off. Excuse the verbiage, but let’s be frank here.
Therefore, it’s my opinion that in addition to the fact that there is no current valid reason to Impeach or attempt to remove Trump (and nor do I think there will be), it’s something that the Democrats shouldn’t really want to do anyway. I don’t think they’ll even need to do anything to galvanize the Democratic base, the Democratic base already hates Trump. They’ll really just need to consolidate around a candidate in the primaries, give that candidate their full support and do whatever they can to compel any potential left-leaning third-party runners not to do so.
The next question is whether or not Trump will be the President at the end of 2019, which is currently at $0.90 for, “Yes,” and $0.10 for, “No.
I actually like the end of 2019 question MUCH less than I do the Impeachment question. The reason why is because we have to take into consideration the possibility of Trump dying in office, which I am saying right now would be extremely unfortunate. Don’t @ me, bro.
The reason that I prefer the $0.84/$0.16 on Impeachment is because, in the unfortunate event that Trump were to meet his demise while in office, he would not have been Impeached, if it hadn’t happened yet, and I don’t think it will anyway. In the event that Trump were to meet his demise in office this year with the other bet, the bet would lose because he would NOT be the President at 11:59 p.m. EST on 12/31/2019. In other words, I think that is the most likely way that Trump is going to be out of office before this first term is scheduled to end, so that’s really the only scenario that would give me pause in a bet.
Another question concerns whether or not Trump would be impeached at any point during his first term, which is $0.23 for Yes and $0.77 for no. While I think that it is equally likely that he will go through all of 2020 as well as 2019 without being impeached (it’s not happening, people, nothing to see here, please move along) I guess another year makes it infinitesimally more likely. More than that, the gain is $0.16/share with the 2019 question and $0.23/share for the 2020 question.
In other words, let’s just look at this from a perspective of monthly return. If you wanted to buy 100 shares on the, “No,” for the 2019 question, the cost would be $840 and you would stand to profit (before fees) $160. We’re almost a third of the way through the year, so let’s just call it eight months left, making the profit $20/month if you win. The return would also be +$160 on an $840 bet, so that would be a return-on-investment of 19.04762% (rounded), which amounts to about 2.381% RoI on a monthly basis.
On the other hand, we’re going to say that you have twenty months to wait out the other proposition, so your outlay of $770 has an expected profit of $230, for a return of investment of 29.87013%, but that only comes out to 1.49351% on a monthly basis and a monthly return of $11.50 as opposed to $20. The shares would also be, “Floating,” for an additional year unless they were sold for a profit early.
Some of you may be saying, “But, you are setting the probability of Impeachment at 0% when calculating what you think the expected profit will be.” Yeah, I am. I think the probability of Impeachment given the huge nothing burger with a side of nothing and a cup of nothing that was the Muller Report is so infinitesimal that 0% is a close enough approximation.
And, again, why should the Democrats want to go up against anyone else in 2020? Why should the Democrats want to potentially galvanize the Republican base? To make them feel as though they are being attacked? I’m sorry, but Impeachment doesn’t make political sense, either.
While many unprecedented things have happened over the last several years, none of these have been so unprecedented as removal from office. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only Presidents to have been impeached, neither were removed from office (though Johnson was only one vote shy!) and the only President who likely would have been was Richard Nixon, but he resigned instead. President Trump doesn’t seem like the resigning type to me, even if they had something on him.
Trump to Become Republican Nominee
This is another interesting question, but one with not nearly as much in the way of value. Personally, I think the binary market on this is fascinating when compared with the one above for Impeachment during both the years 2019 and 2020. It’s especially fascinating when we compare it with the question of whether or not Trump will finish 2019 as President.
Remember, the binary option on him finishing 2019 as President is $0.90 yes and $0.10 for the no. The implied probability of binary options is really simple: The probability is what the investment costs, at least, the probability that is implied.
With that, the option for Trump to be the 2020 Republican Presidential Nominee is $0.86 on the yes side. In other words, the bettors seem to think that it is almost as likely that Trump will be removed from office in 2019 (by one means or another) as for him to be the Republican Presidential nominee come 2020.
If Trump is actually 10% likely to fail to finish 2019 as President, then bettors should think that it is significantly less likely that Trump will win the Republican Nomination in 2020. Is he going to be impeached, removed from office and yet run again (and win) the 2020 Nomination? That just makes no sense whatsoever.
The, “Yes,” on Trump completing his first term is at $0.85/share compared to $0.15 for the no. In other words, bettors think that it is MORE likely that he will be removed from office, resign, or pass away than it is for him to win the 2020 Republican Nomination. Sometimes, binary options just don’t make much sense. What possible reason would there be to think that Trump would win the nomination if he fails to even complete his first term?
With respect to the returns, both in raw dollars but mainly factoring percentage RoI over a period of time, betting on Trump NOT to be impeached in 2019 is still the best bet so far. I still think the YES on Republican Nominee at $0.86 to win $0.14 is still an excellent bet, but it’s not the best that one could get from a return standpoint.
Granted, some might argue that he could be impeached and/or impeached as well as removed from office and still win the 2020 Republican Nomination, but like I said earlier, I don’t think there is any indication that either of the first two things will happen.
If one were to analyze just the probability of him winning the nomination as a standalone, first of all, I’m going to assume that he is still the sitting President. As we can see:
Franklin Pierce is the only sitting President to have won his Presidential Election to fail to be nominated by his own party. This, of course, only includes Presidents who chose to run for another term...but if there is anything pointing to Trump considering not running for a second term, I haven’t seen it. Four other Presidents failed to secure the nomination of their own parties when running for another term, but all four of those replaced a President who had died in office.
The only part of this binary that makes sense to me is that Mike Pence is the second most likely (implied at 5%) to win the Republican Nomination. For one thing, there does not seem to be a meaningful challenger for Trump thus far, and secondly, if for some reason Trump did not complete his term, Pence would become the President.
I have spoken to some people who seem to believe that Gerald Ford lost the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan. While Ronald Reagan did indeed win the Republican Nomination, he did not do so in 1976 when he faced Gerald Ford. The best that can be said for him is that he put up a serious fight that led to a brokered convention. Gerald Ford won the delegate count 1,121-1,078, but 1,130 was needed to automatically win the nomination.
Reagan attempted to woo moderates by announcing that he would Senator Richard Schweiker, from Pennsylvania, for a running mate. Unfortunately for Reagan, at least at the time, his plan backfired and caused many of the party’s more conservative delegates to switch their allegiances to Ford instead. Ford would win 1187-1070. Furthermore, the popular vote for the nomination wasn’t even particularly close, with Ford winning 53.3%-45.9%, which arguably may have been enough by itself to convince some of the delegates to switch to Ford.
Anyway, despite the frequent diplomatic Faux Pas, President Trump has honestly not been a God-awful President. We haven’t been attacked by any foreign powers on our soil, no wars started, the economy continues to improve. Andrew Johnson was coming off a historically unpopular Presidency given his handling of slavery and Gerald Ford succeeded to the Presidency as a result of Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate Scandal. I’m sorry, but for anyone willing to be the least little bit objective about the whole thing, Trump’s Presidency has not been NEARLY as bad as either of those situations so far.
Anyway, I would normally see all kinds of value in this as I believe the only possible way Trump does not win the nomination is if he either passes away or chooses not to run, but the first is pretty unlikely and the second would perhaps be even more shocking.
President Trump to Win Reelection
We have finally arrived at the supremely entertaining one to discuss, unfortunately, though there is value, I do not think it is nearly as good as the NO on being impeached in 2019. I also don’t think it is as good as the YES on Trump finishing 2019 or even 2020 as President.
Currently, one must pay $0.39 for Trump to win reelection in 2020. That would mean the person would stand to make a profit of $0.61/share if he is successful and the implied probability of success is 39%. Personally, I think the fair odds are something really close to 50/50, for a wide variety of reasons that I will discuss below.
1.) Popularity Matters, Except When it Doesn’t:
The first thing that I would hasten to point out is that Republican candidates have not won first-time Presidency by way of Popular Vote since 1988. Crazy when you look at it that way, isn’t it?
In fact, the only Republican candidate to even win the popular vote was George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004 (50.7%-48.3%) but President Bush was running for reelection. In terms of just the popular vote, here are the results since 1992:
- Clinton defeats Bush and Perot 1992: 43.0%-37.4%-18.9%
- Clinton defeats Dole and Perot 1996: 49.2%-40.7%-8.4%
- Gore defeats Bush 2000: 48.4%-47.9%
- Bush defeats Kerry 2004: 50.7%-48.3%
- Obama defeats McCain 2008: 52.9%-45.7%
- Obama defeats Romney 2012: 51.1%-47.2%
- Clinton defeats Trump 48.2%-46.1%
In terms of Popular Vote, especially when one looks at raw numbers rather than percentages, (populations of several states combined in difference) the Democrats have been absolutely dominating the Popular Vote for decades. Again, the last time a Republican actually won the Popular Vote, he was seeking reelection in a very turbulent time in this country’s history.
Here is a fascinating article by fivethirtyeight.com that I highly suggest.
I gave the Democrats some medicine earlier in this article, so now it’s the Republicans turn. In brief, eliminating the Electoral College in favor of going by Popular vote had bipartisan support per a survey taken in May 1968. 66% of Republicans were in favor as well as 64% of Democrats.
In 2000, while that Election was still being decided, (you wouldn’t have needed a recount to determine the Popular Vote winner by any stretch) 73% of Democrats to 46% of Republicans were in favor of abolishing the Electoral College in favor of the Popular Vote deciding it.
In March of 2018:
The PEW results would have it as 75% of Democrats v. 32% of Republicans.
It bears repeating that the Republicans would NOT have won a first-term Presidency without the Electoral College since 1988, because that was the last time they did so. In fact, the only election at all that could conceivably have been different is the 2004 Election during which President Al Gore would have went up against an unknown Republican opponent and I’m not even going to offer speculation as to the result. Who can really know? If you know anyone from the alternate Universe in which this happened, please ask them for me.
Anyway, we see a shift in the Republican position on the matter to keeping the Electoral College as they continue to benefit from it, not that such should be such a huge surprise. One interesting thing to note (see the chart on fivethirtyeight) is that Popular Vote support hit an all-time low for Republicans in 2017 somewhere, but has since bounced back a little. The same thing is true on the Democratic side, just the opposite way. The only conclusion I can reach is that maybe some Republicans aren’t as happy with Trump as they maybe once were and that has changed their perspective. Alternatively, maybe some Democrats don’t mind him as much and/or realize that the Electoral College could go their way while the Popular Vote doesn’t at some point.
Either way, the fact doesn’t change that abolishment of the Electoral College, a little over fifty years ago, would have been an equally welcome change by members of both political parties. In fact, in terms of popularity amongst the people, there was nearly enough for a Constitutional Amendment to that effect had it been as popular in both bodies of Congress! (2/3rds)
Anyway, it seems that the perspective of Republicans surveyed has changed in accordance with that which represents their interests, which is not altogether surprising. After all, what person capable of any form of logic would take a position that is against his/her interests.
The point is that President Trump’s probability, at least the probability that is implied by the current PredictIt numbers, is less than his current approval rating. One would think that those who outwardly approve of him would be likely to vote for him and Republicans who approve of the job he is doing should be a mortal lock to vote for him. Even those Republicans who may not outwardly approve of his performance should be considered extremely likely to consider Trump the lesser of the two evils.
Speaking of the other evil, we do not even know what form that, “Evil,” will take. I believe that something like 1,487 Democrats have declared that they are running for President at this point. Okay, in fairness, it’s not that many, but it’s a very wide field. In fact, I’m going to take nearly zero interest in the race for the Democratic Nomination until the field has narrowed a bit. There are even some people (cough, Joe Biden) who are expected to run who have yet to declare. IN fact, according to PredictIt, Biden is second-most likely to be our next elected President at 16%.
In order to not underestimate the power of the Electoral College, it bears mentioning that there is no one state in reasonable contention that would have swung the Presidency over to Clinton. In fact, for two states in reasonable contention to be enough combined to swing it, one of those states would have to be Florida with its 29 Electoral Votes.
Of course, this ignores the seven, “Faithless Electors,” which are individuals with Electoral College votes that choose not to vote for the candidate to win the state in question. That’s a story for another day, but another significant problem with the Electoral College. Interestingly enough, Colin Powell only needed 267 more Electoral Votes to be out President, because he got three of them.
There’s also a concept known as, “Incumbency Advantage,” which is too complicated to get into all the individual nuances of for this writing, but briefly, there are a few different advantages that the party (or individual) holding an office has. The Incumbency Advantage has often been considered as benefiting the party that holds the office, but analysis shows that this is less true than when the individual office-holder is actually running for reelection. The biggest advantage incumbency offers is that fundraising efforts can be mostly focused on the General Election if the incumbent does not face meaningful primary opposition. Meaningful primary opposition is not expected for President Trump this coming election.
Anyway, it’s not nearly as good of a value as the other bets, especially considering the amount of time in question and RoI over that period of time, but is neat to explore a little bit. Maybe we’ll look at this again as the Primary process whittles down the number of potential Democrats for Trump to face.
Comparison to Overseas Markets
When it comes to evaluating potential value for these sorts of events, I always like to take a look at overseas markets v. PredictIt to see what they are doing. The reason why is that I believe those overseas are less emotionally invested in American politics, and as a result, are more likely to be betting with their heads than with their hearts. It’s when I see a great disparity in between the two things that I believe there is some degree of value.
Let’s take a look at some from LadBrokes.
The first thing that we have is ⅛ on Ladbrokes for Trump to finish his full first term. That represents an implied probability of 88.9% (I think it’s higher than this) which is greater than that which is suggested by PredictIt. According to the binary, Trump is currently at only an 85% probability to complete his first term. If you bet on PredictIt, the bet would be $85 (100 shares) to return $100 as opposed to $85 to return $95.63 on Ladbrokes. In essence, by taking the PredictIt bet, you’re playing as the house.
Conversely, if you wanted Trump to leave office via Impeachment or Resignation (includes death, I believe) before the end of his first term, Ladbrokes has that at 5/1. On PredictIt, you would bet $15 (100 shares) for a return of $100 whereas the same $15 would yield a return of $90 on Ladbrokes.
In other words, PredictIt is the way to go in both cases, but that doesn’t include the fees. Again, we will address the PredictIt fees in the final section. Ladbrokes has a house edge factored into this that PredictIt cannot do because PredictIt is binary based.
Okay, Ladbrokes has Trump NOT being reelected at President paying ½ at this time, so you would bet $50 to win $75. On PredictIt, if you wanted to say that Trump would NOT be reelected, you would simply bet the field for every other share. $61 in total bets (shares) would result in a return of $100. The same $61 returns $91.50 on Ladbrokes making Ladbrokes the inferior choice on this.
We have Trump to be impeached at 5/1 on LadBrokes (for 2019) whereas one would bet $16 (100 shares) on the yes on Predictit. The same $16 results in a total return of $96 on Ladbrokes making PredictIt the superior option before fees.
One thing where Ladbrokes is a vastly superior option is on Trump to be replaced as President in 2021. This is the same as him NOT winning reelection by any means which is currently 61% likely on PredictIt if you wanted to cover the field. That would return $100 whereas the same $69 on Ladbrokes for Trump to be replaced (read: lose or not run) in 2021 returns $109.80.
One thing that you will notice about Ladbrokes is that they often offer longshot type odds on certain events without offering any odds on the opposite to happen directly. Generally speaking, especially on sporting events, books want to balance their action.
How can Ladbrokes balance the action on a proposition if they are not offering the other side?
The quick answer is that they can’t, which means that they consider the, “Yes,” event to be so unlikely that they are willing to fade the small possibility that the event does happen and they have to pay out on every single bet without winning anything in return. That by itself should be enough to tell even a mediocre bettor something.
Similarly, the PredictIt binary has it at $0.39/share if you want to bet on Trump winning reelection. Ladbrokes has this at 11/8, so a $39 bet on PredictIt returns $100 whereas a $39 bet on Ladbrokes returns only $92.63. In other words, you’re much better to make the bet on PredictIt, before accounting for fees (and almost certainly after, in this case).
PredictIt users trend younger and younger people trend higher percentage Internet use and Democratic. Those who bet with their heads can often get the better of those bettors who do their betting with their hearts. You can bet on that! The only caveat is the LadBrokes bet is for any Republican, not just Trump specifically, so if some other Republican were to run (the only reasonable scenario is Pence succeeds Trump for some reason) then that possibility would be included.
Overall, PredictIt is better (almost Universally) before considering fees, but after considering fees will be on a case by case basis.
I have exhaustively analyzed the PredictIt fees in other Trump-related articles, so feel free to look for those. I may also write a small article in the future specifically to address PredictIt fees, in general.
There are two key fees to keep in mind when using PredictIt. The first fee is that when shares in a market are sold (at a profit) or when the market closes and the shares are paid out at $1, PredictIt charges a fee of 10% of the profits. Relative to the amount initially wagered, the less that a share costs, the higher the potential percentage that the fee is relative to your overall bet. Further, the profits would be potentially greater so the fee itself would be a greater amount.
Here’s a simple example:
- Share Cost $0.80-Profit $0.20-Fee-$.02-Fee Relative to Original Bet: 2.5%
- Share Cost $0.20-Profit $0.80-Fee $0.08-Fee Relative to Original Bet 40%
So, the more that you are betting, the less that is getting paid in potential fees. I don’t know that any of this should be a consideration other than it must be factored into the value of the overall bet. What I mean is that you cannot look at a $0.80 share as having a return of $1.00 on a win, the potential return on the win is actually $0.98. That represents a profit of $0.18 rather than $0.20, in terms of actual profit.
Therefore, in order to shop around for the best odds, these fees must also be taken into consideration. Something on PredictIt may not be a better wager on the same proposition than another site at all, some may be better but only before fees and some propositions are better even after the fees are considered. For example, Trump to win reelection in 2020 is slightly better on PredictIt even after considering this fee only.
The second fee on PredictIt is a 5% processing fee on any monies withdrawn. That never applies if you leave your money in there forever, but not really much point making a bet if you’re not going to enjoy your winnings. This fee will always be applied to the total amount withdrawn, so it must be factored into all betting decisions in the event that you do win.
This fact makes the PredictIt binary option often the worst possible option if there is another way to get the bet down. In fairness, it only applies if one actually withdraws, but it affects any balance you have in there equally, initial deposit (win or lose) and anything after.
On the other hand, if you already have money in PredictIt, then that is a better bet than can be found at some of the overseas books. The reason why is because you’re paying 5% no matter what, even if you withdraw all of your funds immediately without ever making another bet.
With that, we have looked at a few of the binary options available on PredictIt that I think have some value. I also got the side benefit of getting to bloviate a little bit about problems I perceive in the political process to which extent I hope I have irritated both parties equally. This is your fault. Everyday of my life I never hear the end of all this dichotomous political stuff despite my best efforts to avoid it.
Ultimately, even the ones that have a value I have identified both in and of itself as well as compared to other markets, the substantial fees (10% on profit amounts and 5% on all withdrawals) must always be considered when it comes to PredictIt. Think about it this way: every binary option ultimately results in $1, for every binary share resultant in $1 that gets cashed out, PredictIt automatically gets $0.05 plus 10% of any profits that any individual gained on that share. They REALLY love it when longshots come in, I imagine.
Still, it is possible to identify value, since it is largely subjective. For instance, let’s say that I think the probability of Trump not being President at 23:59 EST on 12/31/2019 is 4%, but the implied probability is 15%. I can deposit $85, buy 100 shares, and then I will eat a $1.50 fee on the $15 profits leaving me with $98.50 and then $93.58 after the 5% withdrawal fee. Since I think that the actual probability of him not being President is 4% (which is probably way too high) that means that anything at $0.94 on the, “Yes he will be President,” or less has positive value to me. 100 shares at $94 would result in a profit of $6 for a resultant balance of $99.40 which would yield $94.43 after fees. Obviously that would not be nearly enough value to float that money for eight months and the RoI is nearly nil, but that’s where it becomes a positive proposition in my view.
What are your views on the Presidency? PredictIt? Are any of you currently PredictIt users? Let me hear from you in the comments!