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Can bets on politics be more accurate than polling at predicting winners?

One man won more than $19,000. Here's how he did it...

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Here's the deal: more than 100,000 people are now betting on politics through the website PredictIt.org.

"Overall, I put about $60,000 into PredictIt," said Trevor Boeckmann.

Yes. He really said $60,000. Boeckmann won all of that back plus another $19,000!

"It's stress but it's so much fun and I feel so tuned into the political world right now in a way even beyond what I've done before," he said.

The website started as part of a global academic research project studying how well financial markets work at predicting outcomes.

"Increasing polls are less reliable and more difficult and expensive to conduct," said John Phillips, Co-founder of PredicIt. "And they are out of date the minute the questions have been asked. Markets on the other hand are quite accurate surprisingly so. They are not perfect. But they are much more accurate."

For example, former President Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2020 but going into election day the average of all major political polls had President Biden up by 1.9 percent. PrediIt users on the other hand had Trump up by 3 percent.

"You get a very accurate forecast. It's called wisdom of the crowds. You also get real engagement from people that have a little bit of skin in the game. They disregard a lot of the fake news that circulates out there, and they focus on the facts," Phillips said. 

Boeckmann is a former DC insider who now works as a public defender. But he spends countless hours flushing out research for his bets.

"Going through every senator's voting history. Putting together spreadsheets. Trying to find the fastest speed of C-SPAN feed. It turns out their radio app is faster than the live feed. I found myself reading a lot of congressional research reports just to better understand how the senate operates. And I do feel like that makes me a better-informed citizen as well," he said.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina found this kind of effort has made political betting pretty accurate at predicting winners in the past. They looked at gambling odds from 1868 to 1940 – writing: "The resulting betting odds proved remarkably prescient and almost always correctly predicted election outcomes well in advance."

"I think it takes into account not just how people say they are feeling, but historically how people have acted after they say certain things to pollsters and then start talking to each other. It takes into account how the economy is going, COVID, these things that really impact people's day to day lives," Boeckmann said. 

So who does he think will win the 2024 presidential election?

"I think Biden has to get out of the way, where his approval ratings are at right now, it's not sustainable," he said. "It's probably Harris getting the nomination on the Dem side. I think Trump is going to keep public attention on his for as long as possible, trying to get people to pay attention to him suggesting he's going to run in 2024. But I think ultimately he doesn't. It's probably DeSantis jumps in and gets the nomination. And it's probably Harris, but I don't know. That would be a very very close election. Not somewhere I'm putting my money in yet."

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Back before the 2020 election, we looked at which national polls are the most accurate.

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