U.S. Electoral College Odds & Projections: What Betting Markets Say About Presidential Race

Apr 18, 2020, 10:12 AM EDT
  • President Donald Trump and the Republicans are slight favorites to retain control of the White House in November, but state-by-state projections highlight the uncertainty in the race.
  • Betting markets peg Florida as the biggest toss-up state for 2020, and Democrats will need to flip other swing states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among others -- to be competitive.
  • See projections for all 50 states plus Washington D.C. below and what it all means for November.

While politics isn’t legal stateside in the U.S. — West Virginia learned that lesson the hard away a couple weeks ago — for European books it’s a very robust market.

Our own Darren Rovell reported back at the beginning of March, in fact, that not having political betting for this year’s election will cost sportsbooks billions — with a “B” — in handle. Again, big market.

So what does that European market say about this November?

Well, a lot …

Democrats are also likely to win the popular vote, as they did in 2016, but what about the electoral college math? Which states are the swing states you need to keep an eye on?

European books can give us a glimpse on that, too. In fact, Ladbrokes has markets on all 50 states plus Washington D.C. in terms of whether the Republican or Democratic candidate — likely Trump or Biden — will win.

Here’s what it looks like.


Odds as of Thursday, April 16 and via European sportsbook Ladbrokes. Download our FREE app to get more political odds and betting analysis.


The Electoral College Landscape According to the Betting Market

Note: Graph is interactive. Hover to see more data for each state. I defined “toss-up” as a less than 65% chance of either party to win that state.

If you need a refresher, the electoral college has 538 electors — or “votes” — and if a candidate wins the state, they gets all of those votes with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, which divides up their electoral votes by both statewide voters and also congressional districts. In order to win the election, a candidate must receive 270 electoral votes.

Looking deeper into the states, Florida is the one with an exactly 50/50 chance for Republicans and Democrats right now at Ladbrokes. The other states with a less than 65% chance — the “toss-up” states highlighted purple above — are Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

If we assign electoral votes in states with a 65% or greater chance to that party, the electoral college math would look like as follows:

  • Democrat: 229
  • Republican: 170
  • Toss-Up: 139

Democrats are in a strong position, but as any politics follower knows, the entire election is about those swing states. States with a less than 65% chance — about -180 or lower if you prefer betting odds — consist of a whopping 139 electoral votes up for grabs.

If we assigned electoral votes to parties just based on the favorites, here’s how the electoral college would look like according to Ladbrokes…

  • Democrat: 290
  • Republican: 219
  • Toss-Up: 29

That shows if Democrats win the states they’re slight favorites in — Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona — that would be enough even without Florida to win the election. Trump in 2016 won Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona, highlighting the amount of states Democrats would need to flip back blue to win.

There’s a ton of uncertainty in the election, which is somewhat a feature of the electoral college and having swing states. Democrats are seemingly in a decent position, but a lot of those states went Trump’s direction in 2016. That’s why the current electoral odds are about 50/50.

It’s also not inconceivable that states with a greater than 65% chance for a party actually won’t hold. Minnesota, Nevada, Iowa and Texas are all right around that range, and pundits think they could be closer to toss-ups in either direction come November.

It’s also important to remember that a lot of this is correlated data — i.e., if Biden wins Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, he’s more likely to win Michigan. If Trump wins Arizona, he’s unlikely to lose Georgia. Each state separately votes, but there’s a somewhat cascading effect that’s hard to determine and increases the uncertainty in the election.

Here are the odds via Ladbrokes for every state:

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