What kind of information would serve as the best evidence for resolving the debate of whether a centrist or leftist Democratic nominee is likelier to take the White House in 2020?

post by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2019-02-01T18:40:12.571Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW · 5 comments

This is a question post.


    4 paul ince
    2 Monkyyy

The public debate for who should be the Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 2020 electoral race hinges on whether the Dems are likelier to win by nominating a progressive or socialist, or by nominating a centrist or moderate. Assuming this is a problem one wanted to approach epistemically (as opposed to just viewing the debate as a power struggle), we should look for facts of the matter about whether, overall, Americans are likelier to elect a progressive/socialist, or moderate/centrist to the Presidency in 2020. Unfortunately there is no apparent consensus about how to make traction on this problem.

In other words, if there is solid info out there which could best predict whether, in general, a leftist or centrist Democrat is likelier to win the Democratic nomination and/or the Presidency in 2020, it doesn't look like this has been priced into PredictIt's predictions yet. So to answer this question, we might have to find info prediction markets haven't yet, or that they may have at least overlooked.

Suggestions for how to answer this question:


answer by paul ince · 2019-02-04T22:38:07.054Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps this series by Ben Hunt will help you decide if there is enough centre to support a centrist. I doubt it. https://www.epsilontheory.com/things-fall-apart-pt-1/

answer by Monkyyy · 2019-02-02T04:20:16.758Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you need to do anything super fancy to beat the market? You could in thoery just find 100 median voters who swap parties, tell them both Trump and the newcomer are pedophiles to simulate attack ads and ask who they would vote for after giving them an entire minute to think about it(to simulate the months of them hearing about it). Repeat for each canidate.

Alternatively you could check polling numbers for swing States to filter out the noise of who wins calinforna for free.

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-02-02T19:00:00.033Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That doesn't tell you a lot of important information. It doesn't tell you how much a candidate will motivate people to get to the voting booth on Tuesday vs. staying home.

It doesn't tell you how much grassroots supporters they get that campaign for them.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2019-02-03T02:34:12.038Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. I think checking some polling numbers as Monkyyy suggested is a good starting point. It's right it doesn't tell us enough about the dynamics of mobilizing those who typically don't vote; and the dynamic between how much Republicans and Democrats can cause others to flip sides.

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-02-03T11:02:00.565Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is especially true given that the case for not nominating a centrist is to have stronger motivation of the base.


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comment by johnswentworth · 2019-02-01T19:35:20.076Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What you want from a prediction market is not the chance of a given candidate winning the presidency, but the chance of a given candidate winning the presidency if they win the nomination. So, for each of the listed democratic candidates, take Predictit's probability that they win the presidency and divide that by Predictit's probability that they win the nomination: P[presidency | nomination] = P[presidency & nomination] / P[nomination] = P[presidency]/P[nomination], ignoring the chance that someone gets elected president without winning the nomination.

Just looking at the most recently traded prices, I see:

  • Harris: .19/.24 = .79
  • Biden: .12/.16 = .75
  • Warren: .07/.10 = .70
  • Sanders: .10/.15 = .67
  • Brown: .07/.11 = .64
  • O'Rourke: .08/.13 = .62
  • Booker: .06/.10 = .60

That said, the price spreads are ridiculously wide and the trade volume is a trickle, so the error bars on all of those implied probabilities are huge. We'll probably get tighter estimates this time next year.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2019-02-02T00:18:41.175Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for laying that all out. It's more helpful info out of PredictIt. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to point to a trend about whether a more progressive/leftist candidate, or moderate/centrist candidate, would be likelier to win. If I had to guess, I'd say Biden and Harris are more moderate candidates...? But that's not based on much, and like you said the range on all those estimates is still huge.

comment by Dagon · 2019-02-04T20:40:00.008Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may be a wrong question. My model is that specifics outweigh generalities in elections - there's so much noise that it overwhelms any probability difference based on fairly minor ideological differences.

comment by Rafael Harth (sil-ver) · 2019-02-02T21:01:31.224Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This does not answer the question, but it seems plausible to me that the leftist-centrist axis only has a very small impact on who is likely to win, which would be consistent with PredictIt's estimates.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2019-02-03T02:28:55.763Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm inclined to agree. I think the relevant axis is likelier to be Anti-Establishment <--> Pro-Establishment, within the Democratic Party. I suspect where someone would fall on that axis is mildly/moderately positively correlated with where they'd fall on a leftist-centrist axis. This doesn't tell us enough though. For example, I'd say Harris is perceived as almost as 'establishment' as Biden or O'Rourke, but she is apparently to the left of both of them on many policies. While we can _roughly_ tell how pro- or anti-Dem establishment a candidate is, this is less amenable to analysis because there aren't quantitative tools for looking at how 'establishment' a candidate is, and definitely not for the current Dem establishment. Such tools exist for evaluating one's place on the ideological spectrum. That political science is better at this I think is why by default most people are more comfortable thinking in terms of left/centrist than anti-establishment/pro-establishment. At least that's why I expect why the debate has defaulted as about the leftist/centrist axis. I imagine this will remain the dominant framing of the issue until much later in the Dem races, when the field has shrunk enough to make more precise evaluations more useful.