Featured in this article:
  • Of all bets placed on 2020 election, 60% have been on President Trump to win
  • For the same time period in 2016, 58% of betting action was on Trump over Clinton
  • Joe Biden leads in nearly every national presidential election poll

One of the great children books of all-time is “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” because its theme can be applied to so many of life’s moments including the 2020 United States presidential election. If you’ve never read “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie,” the book begins with the title and immediately travels down a cause and effect rabbit hole. If you give the mouse the cookie, it will ask for a glass of milk before requesting a straw, then a napkin and so the story continues to roll along that path. The book’s elementary theme can be applied to this historic political moment when comparing presidential polling numbers to online betting trends tied to the upcoming election.

So, if you give Ryan the latest national polling information, he knows that Biden leads Trump by approximately nine percentage points. However, once you give him that data, he’ll want to know Bovada’s latest 2020 election betting odds, which have Biden (-135) leading Trump (+115) by a sizeable margin. After digesting the polling numbers and betting odds, Ryan would love to know the betting percentage splits of both candidates:

2020 U.S. Election Betting Trends
Candidate % of All Bets Placed at Bovada through 8/23/20
Backing Trump 60%
Backing Biden 40%

Uh, oh! Despite Biden’s significant lead in most national polls, Bovada has accepted 20 percent MORE bets on President Trump to win the 2020 presidential election compared to Biden. Where have we seen this political plot before? That’s right, the 2016 election. On August 24, 2016, Hillary Clinton’s national polling lead over Trump was 43.5% to 37.2%. However, Trump led Clinton in percentage of all bets placed at Bovada, 58% to 42%.

2016 U.S. Election Betting Trends
Candidate % of All Bets Placed through 8/23/16
Backing Trump 58%
Backing Clinton 42%

Here is where I’ll lean on my crutch and state the obvious: we learned in 2016 that national polling data should be taken with a boulder-sized grain of salt. Despite national outlets breathless efforts to suggest they’ve “improved” their polling data to-date, Biden’s nine-point lead is not safe, it’s not secure. It’s one metric used to justify who is “winning” at any given moment. However, the betting trends data provided by Bovada does lead us down a rabbit hole and several things to think about:

if you give a mouse a cookie

Harper Collins

What percent of betting action on Trump came in before the height of the pandemic?

What percent of betting action on Biden came in over the past two months?

How much of an impact did specific betting odds have on the public backing Trump or Biden?

The last question is an important where one could learn was the betting public hammering Trump to win when the odds favored him OR has most of the betting action poured in while he’s been the underdog the better part of the past four months?

Again, the point of this exercise is to really drive home the point that until the election on November 3 we don’t know what we don’t know. The national polls do a nice job providing a snapshot of what could happen, but without any skin in the game, i.e. putting one’s money where their mouth is, it’s hard to justify polls are no doubt a better indicator than betting trends. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Hmm, pudding sounds good.

Can somebody get me a glass of milk?

Ryan Fowler

Ryan has covered sports on every media platform over the past 17+ years. The first seven years of his professional career were spent as a sports anchor and reporter at various local television stations, while he picked up side gigs as a freelance sports columnist and recurring radio guest before he decided to jump to the web. As content manager of sports simulation website WhatIfSports.com and senior editor of FOXSports.com's fantasy baseball and football coverage for the better part of this decade, Ryan embraces advanced metrics, trends, and outside-the-box angles to find his edge. You can follow him on Twitter @FreelanceFowler.

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