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What Does a Psephologist Do?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A psephologist is a professional who engages in the study of elections and voting behavior. These professionals may study elections in various ways. A psephologist may engage in analyzing existing election results, or attempt to predict the upcoming results of an electoral process. These skilled individuals help communities to make sense of all of the complex data involved in a national or regional election.

In general, a psephologist is a technical and formal term for a category of media workers who provide information on elections in any given country. Psephologists may analyze samples of an electorate and prepare materials to show the public how the sample represents common opinion in an election. These individuals may be freelancers or employees of either a media company or a political campaign, though they may be working in slightly different roles as private campaign workers.

Working as a psephologist can involve many separate aspects of the electoral process. These professionals can examine, for instance, various electoral jurisdictions to analyze a collective result, or identify problems with a margin of error in polling, such as access to a ballot or issues with transportation. These individuals may also be engaged in actively creating polls or questionnaires for an electorate.

Along with doing critical election research, the psephologist may be involved in making raw electoral data into a polished end product. This includes working on aspects of the large visual maps that are often used to show modern election results. This is just one of the formats that psephologists may work with to present data to the public or to more narrow audiences in a clear way. Others include detailed visuals for newspapers or magazines, or other special interfaces for digital media.

In a role as analyst of electoral data, the psephologist should have a good grasp of what constitutes voting influence in a given nation or region. For example, psephologists will often study issues of kinship and tribal loyalties in parts of the world where these factors influence voting behavior, for example. In some of the more established democracies, where elections have been the norm for a longer time frame, psephologists may delve into the effect of technology on voting behavior, or analyze the ways that the media frames an election. Considering “swing” areas of an electorate is another common task for the psephologist.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Oct 19, 2014

@irontoenail - I read an article by a psephologist a few years ago and it said that there are actually a hundred things that can be used to influence voting without seeming to and that parties most definitely try to utilize every one of them.

For example, if they host a vote inside a church, that influences people to be more conservative. If they have posters up speaking about liberal or conservative matters (without mentioning party names) that can influence people to change their vote.

And this is just the stuff they can do on the day. That's not even getting into the tactics they use when campaigning. Sometimes I wish that all they were allowed to do was list a black and white sheet of bullet points on their stance and let people decide without all the rest of the bells and whistles clouding the issues.

By irontoenail — On Oct 18, 2014

@Fa5t3r - It is freedom though. There's only so much that you can do to get people to make their own choices and every person is going to be influenced by family and surroundings. Nobody lives in a vacuum.

But nobody is in there with you when you go to vote either. So it's a space where you can potentially choose whatever you want. Without exerting influence either way, that's as much freedom as you can give someone.

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 17, 2014

I find voting to be a strange phenomenon. So often people seem to really just be voting for whoever their family has always voted for, which doesn't really seem democratic to me. I think that's the problem with having entrenched parties. I mean, if you look at what the Republican party used to stand for and what it stands for now, it's completely different, but the same people vote for them. And I think that, in some ways, they are actually influenced by their party rather than the other way around. Not that I'm picking on them in particular, I think it's the same everywhere. And I find it disturbing that we call this freedom.

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