Forget the pollsters, chuck out the tea leaves and bin those reams of historical data. If you really want to know who's going to win the US election, look no further than your friendly neighbourhood online bookmaker. Recent research has shown that betting odds are as good if not better predictors of electoral outcomes than opinion polls. Polls are notoriously fickle. Not only do they take a random sample of not necessarily interested people, they can be highly affected by the way in which questions are asked, and by the agenda of the people doing the asking. For instance, on Friday, SurveyUSA had Senator Kerry on 50 per cent and President Bush on 47, Reuters had them both on 47, The Washington Post had Mr Bush on 49 and Senator Kerry on 48. In contrast, the betting markets showed a fairly consistent win for Mr Bush, with British firm Ladbrokes - the world's largest bookmaker - offering odds of 1.66 to 1 for a Bush win and 2.10 for Senator Kerry, and Australia's Centrebet offering 1.67 to 1 for Mr Bush and 2.05 for Senator Kerry. 'We're backing George Bush as the favourite,' Centrebet chief bookmaker Gerard Daffy said. 'But Kerry as the outsider is making up ground quite fast.' Centrebet's odds were the most accurate indicator in the lead-up to the October 9 Australian election. While most opinion polls were saying the election would be too close to call, the bookies had a victory for John Howard's Liberal Party at 1.10 to 1 and Mark Latham's Labor Party a distant outsider at 5 to 1. In the end, Mr Howard walked away with an increased majority and control of both the upper and lower houses of parliament for the first time since coming to power in 1996, shocking the pollsters and topping up the bank accounts of quite a few punters in the process. Mr Daffy said this US election had attracted an unprecedented level of interest and he expected more than A$1 million (HK$5.8 million) would be wagered before the big day. 'We've had bets from 35 countries so it's a bit harder to pick. Most of the overseas bets are going on George Bush, but the ones we're getting from the US and Canada are leaning towards Kerry.' He said the odds were a good barometer for elections, and they would most likely firm up over the weekend as more people made their minds up. Punters act as their own mini-poll, having absorbed information from the media and from their environment before having a flutter. And because they stand to lose if they get it wrong, they will generally have assessed what they consider to be the most likely result. 'Markets in this context, as in others, are a useful tool for aggregating information,' said Harvard University social scientist Andrew Leigh. In a study of the 2001 Australian election, Dr Leigh and Stanford University researcher Justin Wolfers found betting markets were fairly good at predicting the results.