LAS VEGAS POLLS Public opinion inferred from betting odds. Las Vegas polls are probability-based surrogates for survey research. The basic notion is that betting odds actually constitute a kind of poll-- a poll that measures the betting public's forecast about this or that coming event. The odds themselves are set by people risking money on their beliefs, so they are "a more dependable basis for prediction than the views of people who are not required to put their money where their mouth is" ( Nieburg, 1984:148). For example, if an analyst wanted to know who was going to win an election, or by how much, she could simply consult the betting odds established on the outcome. Or if the question was public confidence in the maintenance of peace, one could examine the betting odds on war breaking out in the next year.
Using betting odds as surrogate polling has some limits--the most obvious being limits on the kind of opinion that can be measured. Las Vegas polls can measure only the things people are willing to bet on. Still, that constitutes a long list that includes elections and some policy issues. Another limitation of Las Vegas polling is scope. These polls measure expectations, rather than opinions--not which candidate will you vote for, but which candidate do you think will win. Las Vegas polls predict what will happen, but traditional polls report choices about what should happen. With a Las Vegas poll, one knows peoples' opinion about what other people will do. With a traditional poll, one knows peoples' opinion about what they will do ( M. L. Young, 1990:551). See alsoWEIRD SCIENCE.
LATE DECIDERSSeeEARLY DECIDERS.