Psephology is the quantitative analysis of elections and balloting. Psephology is Greek for “pebble” and refers to the stones used in ancient Athens to indicate voter preferences. British political scientists and election commentators, R. B. McCallum and Robert McKenzie popularized the term in the 1950s. Psephology uses voting records, polling data, finance records, and other primary data and records to analyze voting patterns and voter preferences. It attempts to explain swings in voter preferences, variations in electoral turnout, and demographic voting trends. Psephology research can be used to explain past or contemporary voting results or to develop predictive theories for future balloting.
Research areas within the field typically concentrate on voter behavior and motivation, and models for future elections. Studies and findings are often used to affirm or challenge existing theories on voting. Political parties, polling firms, and political consultants often employ psephologists. Some psephology studies have been criticized for developing false predictive theories or for creating inaccurate correlations between political, economic, or social conditions and election results. Critics also argue that biases in polling data or study criteria can skew the predictive value of psephology.
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