So, the site’s been up and running since mid-November and our first US primary questions went up in early February. We’ve learnt a lot about the US presidential race since then, and a little about how the almanis crowd operate, and how it compares against the experts. From my perspective, as almanis’s lead curator, things are looking very positive indeed.
The big story so far has been the rise and rise of Donald Trump and the almanis crowd have been dead right on this all along, a slight set-back in Iowa aside. The press and commentariat have been full of sensible folk decrying the notion that a character as unsensible as “The Donald” could ever win out. Some said he’s just in it for the publicity and will pull out before things get too silly. Some suggested that while voters like the idea of sounding off against The Man when pollsters came calling, they would eventually see sense once their pencils were hovering over actual ballot papers.
Nate Silver – the Big Beast of US election forecasting – has consistently suggested on his fivethirtyeight.com site that the polls were overstating Trumps chances of success. So far he’s been on the wrong side of this and almanis has been right. Let’s see if he adjusts.
Before we get too carried away with ourselves though, Nate has been far better at calling Hillary’s big primary wins, regularly putting her chances at greater than 99% and holding them there. The almanis crowd have, by contrast, proved a little shy of putting her much past 95% in these states. Personally, I don’t think the almanis crowd was trying to reflect a much higher chance of an upset.
Instead I reckon this phenomenon is due to the fact that it’s very expensive, in terms of points, to move an almanis market higher than 95%. We’re still young, as I said, and most of our users haven’t yet accumulated enough points to take these expensive positions on. However, over time as our forecasting community continues to improve, we’ll see more questions moving further above 95% and below 5% in the future. Let’s see if I’m right.
One thing the almanis crowd has been signalling is an odd disconnect between the very high chances it’s assigning to Hillary Clinton hoovering up most of the delegates in forthcoming primaries, and a relatively low (around 70%) chance of her receiving the Democratic nomination at the end of it all. This, I think, reflects a general concern that an ongoing FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email account while serving as Secretary of State could lead to her taking the primaries but being denied the nomination.
We’re going to be adding two new questions as a result: one asking if the FBI will pass its file onto prosecutors before the National Democratic Convention and one asking whether Vice President Joe Biden will be awarded the Democratic nomination. Both seem like low probability possibilities but with very significant ramifications.
So that’s it from me today, good luck and happy forecasting! Remember, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the “Contact Curator” button if you have a question or suggestion. Alternatively share your comments below.