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Psephology (/sɪˈfɒləi/; from Greek ψῆφος, psephos, 'pebble') is the study of elections and voting.[1] Psephology attempts to both forecast and explain election results.

Psephology uses historical precinct voting data, public opinion polls, campaign finance information and similar statistical data. The term was first coined in 1948 by W. F. R. Hardie (1902–1990) in the United Kingdom. This occurred after R. B. McCallum, a friend of Hardie's, requested a word to describe the study of elections. Its first documented usage in writing appeared in 1952.[2]

"Psephology" as a term is more common in Britain and in those English-speaking communities that rely heavily on the British standard of the language.[citation needed]


The term draws from the Greek word for pebble as the ancient Greeks used pebbles to vote. (Similarly, the word ballot is derived from the medieval French word "ballotte," meaning a small ball).[3]


Psephology is a division of political science that deals with the examination as well as the statistical analysis of elections and polls. People who practise psephology are called psephologists.

A few of the major tools that are used by a psephologist are historical precinct voting data, campaign finance information, and other related data. Public opinion polls also play an important role in psephology. Psephology also has various applications specifically in analysing the results of election returns for current indicators, as opposed to predictive purposes. For instance, the Gallagher Index measures the amount of proportional representation in an election.

Degrees in psephology are not offered (instead, a psephologist might have a degree in political science and/or statistics). Knowledge of demographics, statistical analysis and politics (especially electoral systems and voting behaviour) are prerequisites for becoming a psephologist.

Notable psephologists[edit]

Notable psephologists include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lansford, Tom (2011). Kurian, George Thomas (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Vol. 1–5. CQ Press. p. 1377. ISBN 978-1-933116-44-0.
  2. ^ "Chapter 15: British Psephology 1945–2001: Reflections on the Nuffield Election Histories", David Butler, Still More Adventures With Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain. William Roger Louis (Ed.), Harry Ranson Humanities Research Centre, University of Texas, 2003
  3. ^ Stephan, Annelisa (November 6, 2012). "Voting with the Ancient Greeks". The Iris.
  4. ^ Green, Antony (16 January 2024). "Election Blog". ABC.
  5. ^ "People Who Went to Penn: Frank Luntz". Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  6. ^ Luntz, Frank I. "Candidates, Consultants, and Modern Campaign Technology". solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2021-06-13.
  7. ^ https://www.concordia.net/community/frank-luntz/
  8. ^ Gans, Curtis (2010). Voter Turnout in the United States, 1788–2009. CQ Press. ISBN 978-1604265958.

External links[edit]

  • 'Psephos' Dr. Adam Carr's Elections Archive
  • International IDEA – International Organisation providing (amongst other things) statistical analysis of elections and electoral systems
  • ACE Project – Information resource for electoral design and administration. Includes comparative data on elections and electoral systems