2021 Virginia Election Odds: Potential Polling Errors Create Betting Value

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on October 12, 2021

In recent days, there’s been a lot of chatter about whether or not the GOP could actually win the state of Virginia in three weeks. That chatter has led to a decreased price for Democrats’ chances of winning the state in 2021 Virginia election odds.

The once-tossup state has been trending blue in recent years, with the 12-year run of Democrats being the only statewide office holders on the line this year.

Can Democrats hold on to the Governor’s Mansion, and is there any money to be made in PredictIt markets on how specific localities will vote?

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2021 Virginia Gubernatorial Odds

PartyPredictit PriceEquivalent Odds

2021 Virginia Election Odds Analysis: Governor

If you just believe the polling headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking this race is close. The 538 polling average is only D+2.5 right now, and the leads Democrats have had have been weakening in recent weeks, with an Emerson poll showing a tie in recent weeks.

The problem is, the polls are wrong, and you should bet Democrats because they’re going to win.

You can go through every poll of the cycle and find the problems with them, from Emerson only having Terry McAuliffe winning Black voters by 46.5% (Biden won them by 81% last year) to a number of polling firms having samples that are oversampling Republicans and whites without degrees. At a more macro level, you’re seeing pollsters overcorrect for the 2020 polling miss.

There were 16 Governor’s races in 2018 with a polling miss of more than 3% and a decent number of polls conducted in the fall of 2018. In 14 of those 16 races, the party that was underestimated in the polls – the party that beat their polls, as it were – was the party that won the state in the 2016 Presidential election. The two that weren’t were Kansas and Texas – both states with high education levels that are trending towards Democrats. If you include the 2017 Virginia election, where this also happened, it’s 15-of-17.

If you look at the polls in a more systematic way, you get something that looks like this model, which thinks the polls are making fixable mistakes, and their methodology – built before all the recent polls came out – says that the panic is unwarranted, and McAuliffe’s lead is closer to 7%, where it has been the whole time, basically.

Also, the final 538 polling average in California’s recall this year was No on Recall +16. No is going to win by 24%, a polling miss consistent with the idea that the pollsters are trying so hard to avoid the last polling error they’ve created the next one.

Who will win Virginia Beach in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election?

CandidatePredictit PriceEquivalent Odds
Glenn Youngkin (R)$0.62-163
Terry McAuliffe (D)$0.43+133

For reasons passing understanding, Glenn Youngkin is the favorite to win Virginia Beach on election night in three weeks. Virginia Beach voted for Biden by 5.4% on the same night he won statewide by 10.1%, and incumbent Governor Ralph Northam won it by 5% on a night he won statewide by 9%.

Democrats should win Virginia Beach so long as they have a respectable result statewide, and the model linked below has Democrats winning it by just under 3% with a 7% lead statewide, consistent with its 2017 and 2020 positions relative to the state.

If you want a way to bet McAuliffe to beat his polling, this is your bet.

Who will win Chesapeake in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election?

CandidatePredictit PriceEquivalent Odds
Glenn Youngkin (R)$0.35-185
Terry McAuliffe (D)$0.65+185

This one is a less attractive price than Virginia Beach, but for a safer locality. McAuliffe would have to win narrowly statewide not to win Chesapeake, and he’s projected ahead by 5% in that model. You’re only having to spend 65 cents per share here, as opposed to 73 cents for the statewide.

It’s not quite as simple as saying McAuliffe can’t win statewide if he loses Chesapeake, but if McAuliffe can’t win here, he’s in an amount of real trouble that he should not be in. It’s a smart way to get a better price on essentially the same outcome.

Who will win Chesterfield in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election?

CandidatePredictit PriceEquivalent Odds
Glenn Youngkin (R)$0.67-203
Terry McAuliffe (D)$0.34+194

The model thinks this one is a relative tossup, with McAuliffe only up 0.8% over Youngkin, but it’s also the cheapest way to have exposure to a good night for McAuliffe.

Even if it’s a coin flip, and it’s a bit more Democratic friendly than a pure coin flip, you’re getting McAuliffe at a nearly +200 price for that coin flip.

They’ll win it if they have a good night, and they’re probably going to have a good night. So this is a low-risk way of getting some good value on that proposition.

SeatsPredictit PriceEquivalent Odds
43 or fewer$0.02+4900
44 or 45$0.02+4900
46 or 47$0.14+614
48 or 49$0.22+355
50 or 51$0.32+213
52 or 53$0.22+355
54 or 55$0.15+567
56 or 57$0.04+2400
58 or 59$0.02+4900
60 or more$0.01+9900

2021 Virginia Election Odds Analysis: House of Delegates

Similarly to the way we were able to bet on seat ranges in Canada – with both party totals hitting the range mentioned in my Canada column – we can do the same with Democratic seats in the House of Delegates. As with the Canadian seat bands, there’s value to be had.

The crew over at Elections Daily have done ratings for all 100 districts, and they have Democrats favoured in 51, as of right now, with the GOP at 43 seats, and 6 tossups. Given their forecast is based on a McAuliffe +5 polling average, per their notes, and I’m higher on McAuliffe’s expected victory than that, it would be logical to think that Democrats would get at least one of those 6 tossups.

If you take Democrats to win 52-53 and 54-55, you get that four seat band for 36 cents right now. They got 55 last time, and while it wouldn’t be completely insane for them to have a good night, holding on to everything they won in 2019 is the realistic high water mark. Will they lose some seats? Presumably so, with the state GOP in a better position than when they lose the State House in 2019.

Democrats losing some skin and holding the majority is the position of most analysts of this race, although they do not rule out a GOP House. I will, because I don’t think the Governor’s race is as close as the consensus does, and this bet is entirely consistent with a 6-9% McAuliffe win at the top of the ticket, which is the sweet spot the model mentioned earlier is projecting, and has been for weeks.

Final Thoughts on 2021 Virginia Election Odds

It’s very likely Democrats are going to have a good night in Virginia next month, and there’s a lot of ways to take advantage of that.

The polls are almost assuredly low on Democratic support, and there’s ample evidence to suggest they’ll have a very good night – and a lot of ways to make money if and when they do.

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