Don't bet on the Bernie hype

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Sanders: We're No Longer 'Fringe' Campaign

By Kelsey Warner, Graphiq

Like many observers of the 2016 presidential election, you might feel some whiplash from the drastically different headlines about the Democratic race between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. With banners proclaiming within the same month that "Hillary Clinton's Got This" to "Bernie Sanders Is Currently Winning the Democratic Primary Race," it is challenging to get a solid grasp of how the race for the nomination is actually going.

Looking at prediction markets, which reflect how people bet money on candidates, can help cut through some of this reactionary smoke. Prediction markets are where individuals place bets on the overall probability of certain events occurring, from outcomes in sports to politics.

In the chart above, InsideGov visualized data from PredictWise, which aggregates thousands of bets from the prediction markets. This tends to be more stable than national polling which is more reactionary. Rather than relying on the whims of public opinion, bettors predict the most likely outcome as they put their money on the line.

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Don't bet on the Bernie hype
A supporter sports a t-shirt with a montage of photographs of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Cohen, left, and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc., talk to supporters during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Audience members look on as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Max Knauer, of Des Moines, Iowa, waits for Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to speak at a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Kenny Jackson of Pleasantville, Iowa listens as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A Muslim woman holds a sign for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign event on the campus of University of Northern Iowa Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man listens to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with a sticker on his hand at a campaign event Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Independence, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A woman wears a shirt supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign event on the campus of Upper Iowa University Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Fayette, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A supporter of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders listens during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A supporter of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shows off buttons during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen to him speak during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JANUARY 18: Cassidy Lamb waves a sign before Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives to a campaign rally at Boutwell Auditorium, January 18, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. Sanders spoke to a capacity crowd of around 5,000 supporters. (Photo by Hal Yeager/Getty Images)
A sign supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is propped against the wall next to water fountains at a campaign event, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in Maquoketa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
An attendee holds a sign as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign stop at Bedford High School, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Bedford. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A supporter walks with a poster depicting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as Sanders speaks at a town hall at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Signs lean up against a wall as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at the Fort Museum Opera House in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Benjamin James Hall Jr. of Bellevue, Neb. wears a shirt in support of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as he speaks at a county meeting at U.M.B.A. Hall in Pottawattamie, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves a drawing of Sanders's face during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 10: Marc Daniels, of Springfield, Illinois, travels from one campaign event to another selilng what he calls 'Presidential Yarmulkes.' He is wearing a yarmulke printed with the phrase, 'Bernie Sanders 2016,' in Hebrew. Daniels was a guest at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on January 10, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Sanders drew an overflow crowd to the 600 person capacity meeting room of the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have been making appearances at events across Iowa to build support in advance of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Charles Ledford/Getty Images)
BURLINGTON, VT - JANUARY 07: A Bernie Sanders supporter holds up a pair of 'Bernie Briefs' in a local bar on January 7, 2016 in Burlington, Vermont. The line to see Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally wrapped around the venue and down multiple streets and multiple groups of protesters were. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 14: John Jarecki wears a puppet of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to show his support for the candidate prior to the start of the Democratic presidential debate at Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate will be the second for the democratic candidates seeking the nomination for president. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a hat with a sign in support of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands at a rally ahead of the Democratic presidential candidate debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The second Democratic debate, hosted by CBS News, KCCI and the Des Moines Register, is the Democratic National Committees only sanctioned debate in Iowa prior to the states first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 1. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Clinton is in charge, according to prediction markets. Bettors have pegged Sanders' chances at securing the nomination below 10 percent since the end of February. Clinton's lowest point was on Sept. 26, 2015, when the markets predicted her the winner of the nomination with a healthy 68 percent chance. On the other hand, Sanders' peak was a comparably paltry 20 percent on Jan. 26, 2016. While national polls fluctuate week-by-week, Sanders doesn't have the prediction markets worried.

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However, with some of Sanders' recent successes, the media clings to the narrative of a Sanders dark horse win.

In some respects, Sanders has indeed been killing it this cycle, with successes in fundraising, voter enthusiasm and recent delegate wins. In February, Sanders — the only presidential candidate without a direct super PAC — out-fundraised and outspent Clinton, bringing in over $10 million more than her campaign. Additionally, the majority (66 percent) of all donations to Sanders' campaign have come via small donations of $200 or less, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. The inverse is true for Clinton, where about 73 percent of the contributions to her campaign have come from individuals giving more than $200 each.

Sanders' fans are well-known for the enthusiasm which they infuse into the campaign. His full-capacity rallies consistently attract thousands of enthusiastic (and sometimes emotional) supporters.

Despite not having a significant social media presence before this election cycle, Sanders' posts on Twitter and Facebook have a higher interaction rate than any of the other candidates. This reflects his ferociously-loyal share of the youth demographic. The Sanders frenzy was showcased in how the unexpected presence of a bird on Sanders' podium during a recent Oregon rally took over Twitter (with the hashtag #BirdieSanders, of course).

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His popularity directly translated into wins on March 26, when he beat Clinton by huge margins in caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. Following this success, Sanders claimed his campaign is "on a path toward victory."

With a cursory glance at primary wins and caucus results, it might seem like Sanders has a shot at the nomination. He has already performed well in states in the North and West, where many of the remaining primaries will take place. Sanders particularly crushed it in Washington, Idaho and Maine, where he beat Clinton in every county except one. But, as the above visualization demonstrates, Clinton dominated in the South, where she found success among black and Latino supporters.

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And, looking at national polls, it could seem like Sanders might have the momentum to win the nomination. Sanders polled at just 5.6 percent on April 30, 2015, when he announced his campaign, but has climbed to 42.3 percent in the past 11 months. The gap in the polls between Clinton and Sanders has narrowed from Clinton's comfortable summer lead of over 50 percentage points to, as of March 29, a nail-biting difference of nine.

Despite polling data, recent wins and continued voter enthusiasm, the bettors simply are not on board with Sanders' argued kick of momentum. Looking ahead, the bettors see an ever slimmer chance of a Sanders nomination. Keep in mind that prediction markets have never given Sanders more than a 20 percent chance of winning the nomination — not to mention that recent data indicates bettors think Sanders' chances continue to diminish. Even as his polling numbers climb, Sanders' chances remain stagnant to the prediction markets.

The delegate math agrees with the markets. He has won 1,038 delegates, while Clinton has secured 1,266, a difference of just over 200. However, if you include pledged superdelegates, Clinton's lead expands to over 700, just 671 delegates short of the 2,383 goal. This key difference can be seen in the visualization below. Although Sanders recently called upon superdelegates to change their support, the likelihood of a meaningful shift is slim.

Potentially decisive primaries will be taking place throughout April. The delegate-heavy Wisconsin primary on April 5 is narrowly polling in Clinton's favor, but could potentially repeat Sanders' Michigan upset. The primary in New York, which Clinton represented during her years as a senator, could seal her nomination on April 19. A handful of primaries in the Northeast, which occur April 26, might come too late to save Sanders' campaign.

With their money on the line, bettors gauge Sanders' chances as pretty grim. Although Sanders was boosted slightly by his caucus wins on Easter weekend, the betting odds are in Clinton's favor at above 90 percent. While there is always the chance of Clinton's campaign losing steam, it seems like it would have to really crash and burn in order to lose the nomination. If one relies on PredictWise figures to read the political tea leaves, it looks like market-based predictions simply do not #FeelTheBern.

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