Fun with conditional probabilities

The political betting markets get wackier each day:

Where to start? Consider that the following statements are all true:

1. Trump is the likely GOP nominee.

2. Biden is the likely Democratic nominee.

3. Biden would probably beat Trump.

4. The GOP is likely to win the 2024 election.

Welcome to the counterintuitive world of conditional probabilities. The explanation is simple. There’s a non-trivial probability (almost 40%) that someone other than Trump will win the GOP nomination, and they would be highly likely to beat Biden. That’s why Biden is the odds on favorite to lose in 2024, despite that fact that he’ll probably face someone that he would beat. Isn’t conditional probability fun?

BTW, did you notice that Trump being found liable for sexual assault barely dented his popularity?

The “race” for president is like two octogenarians with walkers running in an Olympic 100 meter dash. A clown show.

The next thing I noticed is that among all 330 million Americans, Robert Kennedy is the 4th most likely person to be the next president. Here’s what Kennedy is famous for:

1. He’s a famous anti-vaxxer.

2. He’s been lavishly praised by people like Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson.

And yet, he’s more likely than the current vice president to be the Democratic nominee in 2024.

BTW, Tucker Carlson is more likely than Mike Pence to be the next president.

And you guys ask me why I think we are becoming a banana republic.

PS. I suspect these markets are not exactly comparable, as some figures appear in the nomination markets but not the election market, and vice versa.

PPS. Richard Hanania makes some of the same points as I’ve been making regarding Trump’s personality cult, albeit much more cogently.



23 Responses to “Fun with conditional probabilities”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Watts Michael Watts
    11. May 2023 at 00:36

    The given probabilities are not coherent. It would be a mistake to put faith in the low numbers.

    You can still have some fun with the high ones, which are probably better.

    If we make the very reasonable assumption that your odds of winning the presidency without being nominated by either party are zero, then the odds of winning conditional on being nominated are easy to calculate; you just divide the odds of winning by the odds of being nominated.

    This tells us that Biden has a 46% chance to win conditional on being nominated, better than Trump at 39% but much much worse than DeSantis at 67%. RFK is reportedly a DeSantis-quality candidate at 68%; Gavin Newsom is 50%. Kamala Harris is at 65%, which doesn’t seem to jibe with what I’ve generally read about her political appeal.

    But none of them can compare to Michelle Obama, whose odds of winning conditional on being nominated are at least 2500%, assuming these lists are sorted in descending order of likelihood.

  2. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    11. May 2023 at 03:13

    “BTW, did you notice that Trump being found liable for sexual assault barely dented his popularity?”

    New York law doesn’t set the bar for sexual assault very high; there is no statute of limitations which in the world of law (which you know nothing about) is problematic; it’s difficult to gather evidence as the years pass by; there is no evidence they even met. Not to mention, it’s hard to fathom as Dershowitz points out, on how one cannot be guilty of rape, which was the charge, yet at the same time be guilty of maliciously defaming her for saying he didn’t rape her. The jury verdict will be thrown out in appeals court.

    “The “race” for president is like two octogenarians with walkers running in an Olympic 100 meter dash. A clown show.”

    No, actually it’s nothing like that. You’re blog is a clown show, but people running for president are not clowns. The campaigns next year is a fundamental debate over fundamental rights; rights over freedom of expression, free speech, the coercion government, supranationals, war, etc, etc; there are real policy implications here.

    And this statement shows your ignorance: “Here’s what Kennedy is famous for:

    1. He’s a famous anti-vaxxer.

    2. He’s been lavishly praised by people like Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson.”

    He’s not an anti-vaxxer; he’s opposed to harmful vaccines, not vaccines. Read carefully. “harmful vaccine is different than vaccine”. Did you catch that?

    I hope so.

    This is the same position of Malone. Malone and Kennedy have said this so many times that its clear you don’t read any of their books, and if you don’t read their books you cannot form a coherent, logical opinion because you haven’t listened to what they have to say; you are entirely dependent on someone else telling you what they said. But considering the number of movies you watch every quarter, and your occasional posts about “bucks games”, I’m not surprised you haven’t read any of his books or listened to his interviews.

    And just because you praise someone Scott “not so bright” Sumner, doesn’t mean you agree with them on everything. It’s okay to say nice things about people on the other side of the aisle, especially when those people are supporting freedom of speech (which is what Kennedy praised him on). That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    You need to think before you write, because every post is simply more proof that you are a radicalized partisan, and that you predominately side with the dangerous radical left, postmodernist faction.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. May 2023 at 05:35

    Michael, Yes, that’s what my postscript was hinting at.

    And I think you are correct that only the major figures are meaningful. Still, that Kennedy number!

    Sara, Still defending Mr. “Grab em by the pussy”, eh?

    And I said Kennedy is famous for being an anti-vaxxer. Right or wrong, that’s what he’s famous for.

    BTW, I would sort of enjoy a president that promised to end the war on drugs. How about you?

  4. Gravatar of Acebojangles Acebojangles
    11. May 2023 at 07:16

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Kennedy is famous for being an anti-vaxxer. That’s the most well-known thing about him, but it’s not very well known. Or maybe it makes more sense to say that’s most famous for being a Kennedy and he gets some benefit of the doubt as a result.

    I hope Kennedy would be less popular if people knew more about him.

  5. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. May 2023 at 09:34

    These polls, or whatever they are called, are meaningless—-they really add no value. It is hard to believe either Octogenarian has a chance to become president. I still don’t understand why no one has a problem with our voting process. Vote when you want, count when you want. In NJ I never had to prove my ballot was actually from me—/unless you simply believe the person it was mailed to is the person that (literally) had to stuff two ballots (me and my wife’s)into the jammed mailbox.

    It’s pathetic. We are part banana republic. I don’t understand why our random state by state voting process is not discussed or debated. It is definitely likely to create more incorrect outcomes than the old fashioned way. Canada and France do it much better than we do.

  6. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. May 2023 at 09:51

    I wish you Trump haters would get the “grab them by the pussy” statement correct. He was stating how absurd some women can be around famous men. You can basically grab them by the pussy and they don’t care. One can disagree of course. But then you would be a bit naive.

    Now I am sure that Trump is the only presidential candidate or politician who ever talked like that. Women talk like that. And NBC held onto to that “private conversation” for 15 years before they let it fly. RFK Jr’s renowned sexual compulsive activity is okay because he “confessed” it was wrong. What a phony jackass.

    Then we have Biden who can’t get near a women or even a girl without sneaking a sniff. Also enjoyed swimming nude around female secret service.

    I think all these kinds of things are crude —but the only one you care about is Trump. Yes, this is the junk blog, and I am in junk mode.

  7. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    11. May 2023 at 11:18

    We are a banana republic, but not because of Trump; we are a banana republic because of establishment politicians who place their own interest above the people.

    We are a banana republic because the policy proposals coming from the left are more totalitarian than Mao’s China.

    Trump actually has courage; when is the last time Biden took a question, never mind went to a hostile network for a town hall (CNN)? More and more Americans understand that the left is so phony, and so is the one party establishment; it’s becoming palpably noticeable that neither has no interest in real debate.

    The DNC won’t even have debates for any challengers to Biden; that’s not democracy; that’s the action of a totalitarian party.

    It should be clear that the establishment, which is predominately the left, is very afraid and that they are lashing out; they are afraid of Trump; they are afraid of anyone questioning the narrative. Every attack on Trump only makes him stronger; the left is only proving what they really are; they feel everything slipping away, and so they are sweating bullets and yelling and screaming, and weaponizing the justice system, and canceling and so on and so forth.

    In a nutshell, that is the beauty of Donald. A lot more people are awake as to the dangers of the one party state, and that’s because of him; He’s fearless; he’s authentic; he’s politically incorrect; he doesn’t like endless wars; he doesn’t call himself “intellectual” and “elite” and plot one world governance. He’s an entrepreneur; he’s a man of action; he’s a doer; he could care less about your refined sensibilities. He’s a real individualist, and dare I say a real man.

    He also understands the threat of mindlessly trading with a totalitarian regime (China), and the gross inequality that has resulted from the mercantilist system (economic zones abroad).

    He’s anti-establishment, anti-globalist, anti Washington thuggery, and it’s beautiful because that’s precisely the position of most Americans; he speaks for the people. This is why RFK also has a lot of support; I saw a poll above 20% recently. Both don’t subscribe to the radical view that abortion laws must be centralized, or that tax money should pay for men to get tits, etc.

    At the end of the day, his policies are better. Controlling the influx of legal immigrants based on economic factors, keeping illegal immigrants out, and not coercing and threatening other countries is normal. It’s not normal to give a hundred billion dollars to an imbecile in Ukraine who takes steroids and wears sweat pants, and who spends some of that money shelling the people in Donbas, and who sends the rest to a Swiss bank account. It’s not normal to let tens of millions of people into your country, unaccounted for, and then shrug your shoulders.

    Not to mention, the General of Ukraine is commanding a known Nazi terrorist organization called the Azov battalion; before the war they wore Nazi insignia on their uniforms. This was widely reported by the NYT back in 2017. Since the war began they have committed numerous war crimes, like shooting Russians prisoners of war in the back of the head (execution style). This battalion has said things like “we won’t rest until every Russian is exterminated”.

    This is who Americans are supporting, and most don’t like it. If you think Russia is a threat, I encourage you to go fight. But 90% of Americans could care less if Russia is supporting Donbas in a civil war. Let me know when they get to Utah. Let me know when they attack Germany or France, then I might listen to arguments that we have to engage.

  8. Gravatar of Louise Castillon Louise Castillon
    11. May 2023 at 14:52

    The left in France is also a problem.

    Virology was mentioned here, and I must say this is right up my alley; there are three primary groups: there are those as mentioned who believe no proof of viruses exist; this is the Perth group camp, along with Samantha Bailey and others.

    Then there is the mainstream view, which is that Koch’s postulates are unnecessary isolate.

    The other view is that newer vaccines, particularly mRNA, are not as safe as they are claimed to be (Malone, McCullough, and many others). The Malone camp is growing; the Perth group is a smaller minority, but they are not insane people as the media describes them.

    The problem with the left today is that they want to cancel the two groups not considered mainstream. Not just in virology, but in other areas of science too; they use words like “settled science” and “fact” to describe their opinions, and this is not only a disservice to the general public and to science, but it creates a dangerous bubble of information that leads to groupthink.

    The pressure has also influenced editors at journals, which only weakens scientific integrity.

    I agree with Sara that the left must be brought back to reality, but insults will most likely not accomplish this objective. I prefer a more open debate without calling blog writers imbeciles and blog writers calling their commenters imbeciles: in this case using the term antivaxxer is not accurate in the context it was written, but clearly the writer is not stupid.

  9. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    11. May 2023 at 16:21

    Michael, You said:

    “These polls, or whatever they are called, are meaningless”

    They aren’t polls. If you don’t know what they are, what makes you think your view on them is interesting?

    “I am in junk mode.”

    Can’t argue with you there.

    Edward, You said:

    “he’s authentic;”

    LOL, he’s perhaps the least authentic politician in world history. He says whatever he thinks will make him more successful.

  10. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    11. May 2023 at 18:03

    Political betting markets are always saying crazy things due to low liquidity. How much money would I bet on Kennedy not winning, even with just a 4% upside? without major issues of opportunity costs, or limits in what one bets, that contract would be down to well under 1%.

    But it’s a toy market, so we don’t really get efficient prices.

  11. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    11. May 2023 at 18:18

    “That’s why Biden is the odds on favorite to lose in 2024”

    Don’t those odds also include the odds for him not running (losing the nomination or developing a health issue)?

  12. Gravatar of kangaroo kangaroo
    11. May 2023 at 20:55

    I’m baffled by the libertarian idea that when smack and fentanyl and blow are legal all of our drug problems will just go away. Wishful thinking. Wildly at odds with reality. Guns are legal yet that hasn’t stopped people from buying them and killing one another. Alcohol is legal and it’s death toll would be much higher if it weren’t for the very long campaign to pass and enforce drunk driving laws. Now that dope is legal we’ll start to get a handle on the damage it causes, but having grown up around a bunch of stoners I propose the outlook even for stoners is bleak.

    And for goodness sake there must be dozens of nearly harmless prescription meds that should be far higher in the line for legalization than smack and blow.

    I recently read a book that speculated that the wide availability of coffee and tea may have been responsible for the industrial revolution via an intellectual revolution. So caffeine started the intellectual revolution that gave birth to modern society; THC will terminate the intellectual revolution and kill modern society.

    Thanks to libertarians! Free dope for everyone!!

  13. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    12. May 2023 at 07:23

    As Bob pointed out above, these markets are ‘toy markets’ with very low liquidity especially for the minor candidates under 5%, and especially this far from the election.

  14. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    12. May 2023 at 08:23

    Both parties are likely to nominate the worst possible candidate in 2024.

    Both parties DID nominate the worst possible candidates in 2020 and 2016.

    One party nominated the worst possible candidate in each of 2012, 2008, 2004. (And they all lost).

    The only anomaly was that Obama was able to beat out Hillary in 2008, thereby depriving the worst possible candidate of the presidency.

    How is any of this news?

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. May 2023 at 21:35

    Kangaroo, You said:

    “Alcohol is legal and it’s death toll would be much higher if it weren’t for the very long campaign to pass and enforce drunk driving laws.”

    Yup, treat drugs like alcohol. Legalize it but don’t allow driving under the influence.

  16. Gravatar of J.Aigner J.Aigner
    13. May 2023 at 12:15

    Scott, you insult people all the time.

    You wrongly call Trump supporters, which constitute 70M people, a “cult” for no good reason; they simply desire order at the border, lower taxes, peace instead of war, and opposition to the more radical elements of the globalist left.

    You oddly use the exclamation: “politics is a hell of a drug” as a rebuttal which is not that coherent. You are essentially calling people who disagree with you drug addicts. It doesn’t make sense.

    You call people who question the safety of the vaccine “anti-science” and “antivaxxers”, but there is nothing antivax about vaccine safety.

    You call American citizens “terrorists.”

    I don’t feel any sympathy for you; it simply appears to me that the bully is now being bullied.

    When you started the blog you were focusing on economic issues that people cared about. You were putting forth evidence based analysis. Now you are rambling and insulting, and you are getting the same in return.

    Perhaps it’s karma, perhaps the law of attraction. I don’t know, but I’d say this blog is close to dead.

  17. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    13. May 2023 at 15:28

    In the previous post, Andy McCarthy jumping ship leads to this comment:

    “Bad news for Trump? Not really.”

    Then this post, there is the suggestion that Biden will have a much easier time beating Trump than a generic Republican.

    There’s no connection? All the people who will only vote for Biden if it’s a vote against Trump isn’t bad news for Trump?

    Maybe it’s just me – I’m getting wackier each day too – but I feel a more detailed breakdown of this logic is in order.

  18. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    13. May 2023 at 21:54

    Anon/portly, A few intellectuals like McCarthy jumping ship won’t stop Trump from getting the nomination.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. May 2023 at 09:29

    Aigner, “You oddly use the exclamation: “politics is a hell of a drug” as a rebuttal which is not that coherent.”

    People that suffer from this problem are generally not very self aware.

    Your comment is full of factual inaccuracies, such as equating Trump supporters and Trump voters, or suggesting that I view Americans as terrorists, or suggesting that I view people I disagree with as drug addicts. (Lots of Trump voters don’t like Trump.). I would encourage you to do some serious soul searching. Ask yourself why you feel a need to grossly mischaracterize my views. Perhaps politics has distorted your mind?

  20. Gravatar of Jerry Jerry
    17. May 2023 at 11:58

    Scott, populists are the solution to a banana republic, not the cause of a banana republic. The cause of banana republics in every country, are crossbench, entrenched, career politicians.

    The people in the U.S. have had enough of them; Pence is a soft spoken, western Christian, which some conservatives like, but his views are predominantly neocon which the people wholeheartedly reject. Both sides of the aisle have made that clear in the last decade with Bernie Sanders and Trump, and it will only continue.

    The vice president Kamala Harris is an ignoramus; that woman has had extremely low poll numbers ever since she entered, because her background as Attorney General was a disaster, and she nervously cackles during interviews. Neither her career, not her personality are attractive.

    Romney and some of the others are nice people, but their views are not in line with what the people want. They want to run on a platform which is rejected from the outset.

    You can either accept the wish of the people, or you can move towards a totalitarian state of entrenched politicians and, in the process, get closer to your banana republic. I prefer the former.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. May 2023 at 17:15

    Jerry, I love how commenters tell me “the people” support Trump, right after an election where Biden got 7 million more votes. Even Romney lost by a smaller margin.

  22. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    22. May 2023 at 10:04

    I’m a Dem but I’ll be voting in the GOP primary AGAINST Trump. Why? If Trump loses the primary he won’t be able to admit it and he’ll say it was rigged by woke globalist Satan-worshiping communist RINO pedophiles. His brain dead cult will believe him instantly and they’ll sabotage the GOP nominee to protect Trump’s precious ego. And it will all be a problem internal to the GOP not the nation as a whole. Hopefully the GOP will split into two factions that hate each other with the white hot intensity of a 1000 suns and hopefully Trump lives to 120 years old and does this every election until then.

  23. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    22. May 2023 at 10:07

    And BTW, not all Trump voters are members of his cult. But his cult is a substantial % of those voters: enough for a not-very-bright narcissistic sociopath like Trump to keep fleecing for the rest of his life.

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