Psephology is the branch of Political Science that deals with the art of predicting elections. A psephologist is a person who does the quantitative analysis of elections and balloting. As such, the task of a psephologist is to attempt to explain elections by making use of the scientific method. Psephology is often related to political forecasting. Psephologists use the following to predict elections:
- Historical precinct voting data
- Public opinion polls
- Campaign finance information, and similar statistical data.
The term psephology was coined in the United Kingdom by W. F. R. Hardie in the year 1948 after he was asked to provide a word for describing the study of elections. The first written use of the word actually wasn’t until the year 1952. Social choice theory is the field of study that studies voting from the quantitative domain of mathematics. Psephology as a term is more commonly used in Britain as well as in the English-speaking communities that heavily depend on the British standard of the language. In the United States, ‘political analysis’ is the term that is more often used to describe the term.
A few of the major tools at the disposal of a psephologist are historical precinct voting data, campaign finance information, and other historical data related to it. Public opinion polls also play a key role in this field. It also has various applications specifically in analyzing the results of elections for current indicators, as compared to predictive purposes. For example, the Gallagher Index measures the amount of proportional representation within the scope of an election.
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