Archive for Monday, October 22, 2012

Heard on the Hill: KU professor talks election betting markets on NPR; ‘Moneyball for politics’ writer speaking Tuesday; honorary degree recipient has many KU family connections

October 22, 2012


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• If you've followed the presidential election much, you may have heard a few mentions of the Irish company Intrade, which essentially sets real-time betting odds on the election, distilling all the polls and other data out there into one simple probability statistic.

You might think this kind of thing is more of a recent, Internet-fueled phenomenon, but KU business economics professor Koleman Strumpf said in an interview on NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday that election betting markets have actually been around for quite some time, and they experienced a heyday around the turn of the 20th Century. It seems those markets were one of the primary ways media outlets attempted to predict election outcomes before modern political polling was developed.

But if you're interested in plunking down some money on either candidate this year, be warned: NPR describes the practice of betting on presidential elections as a "legal gray area" for Americans.

For what it's worth, that Intrade site gave President Obama about a 60 percent chance of defeating Mitt Romney to win re-election, as of Friday.

• While we're on the subject of money and politics: Journalist Sasha Issenberg will speak Tuesday evening at the Dole Institute of Politics at KU.

He'll talk about his new book, "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science to Winning Campaigns," which digs into the strategies used in modern political campaigns.

It seems that campaigns these days are relying on ever-more-sophisticated analytics and research to guide them, leading Politico to call Issenberg's book "'Moneyball' for politics," comparing it to the book that famously explored similar trends transforming decision-making in baseball.

The talk by Issenberg will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute, and it will be free for anyone to attend.

• While not even trying to do so, I learned a bit more last week about one of the three people who will receive honorary degrees at KU's 2013 Commencement.

This came from a coincidence that perhaps demonstrates how KU's arms extend to far-flung corners of the earth. For a story published Sunday about the history of homecoming traditions at KU, I called up Kevin Armitage, an associate professor at Miami University in Ohio, to discuss an article he wrote while he was studying for his doctorate at KU about the old tradition of Hobo Day.

He told me he was surprised to hear me ask him about Hobo Day because when I introduced myself, he figured I was about to ask about his sister: Karole Armitage, a ballerina and choreographer who will receive one of those honorary degrees. The announcement had been made just two days before.

Kevin told me that the Armitage family has quite the strong KU tradition: Not only is it where he earned his doctorate, but his father held a distinguished professorship at KU, and his mother earned a master's degree from KU.

• I don't know if Intrade sets odds on this, or how legal it might be, but you can feel safe betting as much as you like that Heard on the Hill will continue to provide you those nice KU news nuggets you can't get anywhere else. But that's the case only if you continue to send those tips to


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