For much of the election year of 2004 the opinion polls had Labor comfortably in front but the betting market at Centrebet continued to have John Howard’s Coalition as the favourite to win. The market turned out to be the more reliable guide as has been the finding of an academic study at the University of Iowa Business School of the contest between an American market and the predictions of pollsters on presidential polls. Hence Crikey’s decision to regularly publish its Crikey Election Indicator, based on the prices at Australia’s three big bookies, which currently gives Labor a 50.5% chance of winning t0 the Coalition’s 49.5% chance.

Those of you with an interest in such matters should study the table below which records the pattern of the market and the polls before the last election. The column giving Centrebet’s Winning Chance for the Coalition expresses the Coalition and ALP odds in terms of a percentage chance of winning

Rudd is clearly in his honeymoon period – the latest Centrebet odds on Rudd to win right now are $1.80 to $1.90… but are the bookies getting a bit ahead of themselves?

Maybe not… a study of Latham’s odds shows that the Labor leader’s fortunes were (and still are) tied to outside events plus his performance, but they also suggest that the bookies do get it right in the end…

Date Coalition odds ALP odds Events
June 13, 2003 1.20 4.00 Crean beats Beazley
August 20, 2003 1.25 3.50 Hanson imprisoned
August 26, 2003 1.30 3.20 Abbott fund allegations
August 27, 2003 1.33 3.00 Abbott fund allegations
September 17, 2003 1.30 3.20 Crean rules out resigning
September 19, 2003 1.25 3.50 Crean rules out resigning
November 28, 2003 1.20 4.00 Crean resigns
December 2, 2003 1.25 3.50 Latham beats Beazley
December 4, 2003 1.30 3.20 Latham’s honeymoon period
December 5, 2003 1.33 3.00 Latham’s honeymoon period
January 15, 2004 1.28 3.25 Latham’s honeymoon period ends
February 2, 2004 1.33 3.00 Labor tipped to win Queensland election
February 7, 2004 1.40 2.70 Labor wins Queensland election
February 16, 2004 1.45 2.55 Howard under fire over trade agreement
March 2, 2004 1.50 2.40 Howard under fire over Iraq
March 6, 2004 1.57 2.25 Howard under fire over Iraq
March 11, 2004 1.60 2.20 Madrid bombing
March 16, 2004 1.65 2.10 Howard under fire over Iraq
March 17, 2004 1.70 2.00 Howard under fire over Iraq
April 6, 2004 1.60 2.20 Latham under fire over troops pledge
April 7, 2004 1.57 2.25 Latham under fire over troops pledge
May 11, 2004 1.55 2.30 Costello announces budget
May 21, 2004 1.60 2.20 Draper travel allegations
May 25, 2004 1.65 2.10 Draper travel allegations
May 27, 2004 1.70 2.00 Howard under fire over Iraq
June 15, 2004 1.65 2.10 Bush and Kerry criticise Latham
July 4, 2004 1.60 2.20 Latham private life allegations
July 6, 2004 1.55 2.30 Latham private life allegations
July 26, 2004 1.50 2.40 Howard rules out retiring
July 30, 2004 1.45 2.55 Howard rules out retiring
August 17, 2004 1.50 2.40 Howard under fire over Tampa
August 29, 2004 1.55 2.30 Howard calls federal election
September 2, 2004 1.50 2.40 Bracks criticises Latham
September 5, 2004 1.47 2.50 Favourable poll for Howard
September 7, 2004 1.45 2.55 Favourable poll for Howard
September 9, 2004 1.33 3.00 Jakarta bombing
September 10, 2004 1.30 3.20 Costello announces $8bn surplus
September 12, 2004 1.40 2.70 Latham “wins” debate against Howard
September 16, 2004 1.33 3.00 Latham under fire over schools policy
September 18, 2004 1.28 3.25 Favourable poll for Howard
September 21, 2004 1.33 3.00 Windsor bribe allegations
September 22, 2004 1.40 2.70 Al-Qaeda visa drama
September 26, 2004 1.33 3.00 Favourable poll for Howard
September 28, 2004 1.28 3.25 $200,000 bet on Howard
September 29, 2004 1.40 2.70 Latham announces Medicare Gold
October 2, 2004 1.45 2.55 Latham under fire over Medicare Gold
October 3, 2004 1.42 2.65 Commentators anticipate forestry policies
October 4, 2004 1.33 3.00 Latham announces forestry policy
October 5, 2004 1.20 4.00 Latham under fire over forestry policy
October 9, 2004 1.10 5.50 Federal election takes place

Peter Fray

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