The launch of a new student-run, Web-based game brings other students an opportunity to win money for correctly predicting the outcome of the upcoming presidential race.
While the presidential election will feature two Yale graduates, the creators of the experiment wanted to bring the election closer to campus. Without the help of any faculty or mentor, Whitney Haring-Smith ’07, Beth France ’06 and Brittney Hunt ’07 started thinking about the Yale Presidential Market (or YPM) in early June, and worked on the project over the summer.
“What resulted was the three of us working on a project that is essentially a better alternate to polling because it is a constant reflection of people’s predictions,” France, the assistant project and financial director for YPM, said.
The YPM is a double-blind economic experiment in which Yale students can buy or sell stock in whichever candidate, John Kerry ’66 or George W. Bush ’68, they think is a better investment. According to Project Director Haring-Smith, “it is a futures market that measures the public’s opinion and expectations emerging from the field of economics.”
Upon registering at www.YalePresidentialMarket.org, a student receives an account. The player then receives an equal amount of Kerry and Bush stock in the electoral college market and $50,000 in the popular vote market. The player can buy or sell stock in whichever candidate they see as a better business selection. While all money involved in the actual game is fake, the outcome involves real money. There is a $300 first-place prize to the player that had the most stock in the winning candidate in the electoral college market. The project is funded by the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics at Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and secondarily by Duke University. There is no fee to participate in the game.
“We wanted to come up with a way without any disincentive for students to become active in the election, which is why it is totally free. The three of us want people our age to get involved,” France said. “Maybe this will spike the youth’s interest in the race and consequently, in future races candidates can pay more attention to people our age.”
Voters between the ages of 18 and 25, have historically been among the groups with the lowest voter turnout in most elections. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, between 1972 and 2000 the youth voter turnout declined by 13 percent. In the 2000 presidential race, only 42.4 percent of eligible youths claim to have voted.
“It’s interesting because we as college students are supposed to be the more informed ones, and the ones that care more about the future. It’s fascinating to really see how much attention we pay to the election and politics in comparison to older Americans,” Hunt, the assistant project and technological director, said.
Haring-Smith said the general outcome has been a good one, with approximately 69,000 hits to the Web site. However, trades cannot start going through on the market until it is large enough. Haring-Smith anticipates this will happen soon and definitely before the first debate.
Since the experiment is double-blind, the organizers do not know how many people are currently participating. However, some students have expressed interest in the competition.
“At first I thought it was silly, especially the prize money. But then I realized I had nothing to lose, I thought I would see how things panned out,” Greg Phalen ’07 said. “I’d like to be able to see how things are going though, and I can’t do that until the trades are allowed to go through. Overall, the site is easy to use and it’s definitely an interesting approach to the race.”
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