2020 Election Prediction Contest

Please come win my money!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfSDPbJiIUoM2gXt7tgPOAlmbaPfJdll_4I0x1qLBZyjoNXjg/viewform?usp=sf_link

No purchase necessary! Fill out the form above with your predictions on the presidential election in 2020 and whoever has the best predictions will win $125 from me 🙂

***UPDATE: Due to a generous contribution from anoland, the prize is now $250 per contest at minimum! (He did not receive any special insight into anything for his contribution and remains prize-eligible; I’m the only one who can see entries while they’re being submitted and am thus prize-ineligible)***

First contest: Entries dues 11:59:59 pm eastern time, August 1.

What is this?

This is a public contest to see who can best predict the outcome of the 2020 presidential election overall and in 23 key states. To participate, you must provide a win probability and margin of victory/defeat for the Democratic candidate in each of 23 states plus overall national win probability and electoral college/popular vote margins of victory.

Whoever makes the best predictions wins my $125 (or, if I win, whoever the runner-up is gets my $125).

Wait, why are you doing this?

For 2018, I maintained a spreadsheet that showed a simple comparison between predictions for various modeling organizations, betting markets, and expert handicappers (like Cook Political). I want to do something similar this year, but this time also incorporate individual predictions from all you sharps that follow me and read this blog, plus anyone else in election twitter that happens upon this contest. And I figure in order to get people to do it, I ought to offer a prize! In addition,

ALL ENTRIES WILL BE MADE PUBLIC.

Yep, for bragging rights you’ll get to see your entry next to all the modelers and everyone else’s that participates (all predictions will be revealed after entries close). If you’d like to be eligible for the prize, you’ll need to give me your twitter @handle, otherwise your entry will be anonymous. Once the final results are in (I will be waiting until the official FEC report comes out in early 2021 to resolve and pay out the contest), you’ll get to find out if you beat the markets, the handicappers, the average of your peers, or everyone!

When are entries due?

There will be four contests, this post is appearing ahead of the first. Entries for the first contest are due by 11:59:59 pm Eastern time, August 1. Subsequent contests will launch at later times and will be due on September 1, October 1, and November 1. Each contest is separate, so you can enter all four and theoretically win $125 from each. (And by running multiple time points, I’ll hopefully get some fun data for how all of you are or aren’t changing your predictions over time).

How do you determine who wins?

The best predictor wins. In this case, that means the entrant who earns the most points wins. How do you earn points? Because entrants will be making two kinds of predictions (win probability [winprob] and margin of victory [MoV]), each will be scored separately, then combined at the end with four times the weight given to MoV points. (Click here for the scoring rules with an example). Here are the formulae:

  • Winprob predictions: if Dem candidate wins, points = predicted probability; if Dem candidate loses, points = -predicted probability.
    • EXAMPLE: You predict the Dem candidate at 85% to win the presidency and 40% to win Texas. The Dem does win the presidency, but loses Texas. You are awarded 85 points for the first prediction and lose 40 points for the second prediction.
    • Your goal therefore is to maximize winnings and minimize losses, and if you want you can try assigning 99s and 1s to everything where you think the Dem wins or loses – but if you’re wrong you’ll be wrong bad. In theory simply offering an honest probability is the best strategy.
    • All winprop prediction points are summed, giving you the Winprob Subtotal.
  • MoV predictions: points = 10 * (5 – a*(abs(actual-prediction))
    • a = an adjustment factor. For all % point MoVs (all but one of them), a = 1. For the Electoral College MoV, a = 0.18 (this is roughly 100/538 in order to normalize things).
    • abs() is the absolute value function.
    • The formula says that you get more points the closer you are to the actual margin of victory, with a maximum score per prediction of 50 points [10*(5-0)]
    • It also says that if you’re more than five points off the actual margin of victory (or 28 electoral votes for the EC MoV) you will lose points for that prediction (the further you’re off, the more points you’ll lose).
    • All MoV prediction points are summed, giving you the MoV Subtotal
  • Final points = 4*MoV Subtotal + Winprob Subtotal
    • Yes, the overall score is weighted more heavily to MoV predictions. This is deliberate to avoid people trying to win the contest by spamming 99s and 1s for winprob predictions and hoping to get lucky.
    • Whoever has the most points wins.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the prize, you must submit all predictions as well as your twitter @handle via this form (same as above). One entry per contest per entrant. Your twitter account will need to have been created prior to July 1, 2020. If I receive multiple entries from the same entrant, I will reach out to that entrant to find out which entry is theirs; otherwise the first entry made by an entrant will be the one that counts. If you find an entry on the list in your name and did not make an entry, please contact me and I will remove your name from that entry.

There is no fee for entry and you can enter anonymously (your prediction will still appear, but with no name attached). Anonymous entries will not be prize-eligible.

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