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Psephology // (from Greek psephos ψῆφος, 'pebble', as the Greeks used pebbles as ballots) is a branch of political science which deals with the study and scientific analysis of elections.
Psephology uses historical precinct voting data, public opinion polls, campaign finance information and similar statistical data. The term was coined in 1948 in the United Kingdom by W. F. R. Hardie (1902–1990) after he was asked by his friend R. B. McCallum for a word to describe the study of elections; first written use in 1952. Voting theory is a different field of study that studies voting from a mathematical perspective.
Psephology is a division of political science that deals with the examination as well as the statistical analysis of elections and polls. People who practice 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 disproportionality of an election.
Degrees in psephology are not offered (instead, a psephologist might have a degree in political science and/or statistics). Knowledge of demographics, statistics, and politics are prerequisites for becoming a psephologist.
Notable psephologists include Antony Green; Malcolm Mackerras (who devised the Mackerras pendulum); Michael Barone, who has co-authored The Almanac of American Politics biennially since 1972; David Andrews, who since 1973 has led the Canadian network CTV's analysis and "calling" of dozens of federal and elections and referenda; Nate Silver, whose website FiveThirtyEight tracks U.S. voting trends; Canada's Éric Grenier at threehundredeight.com; David Butler and Robert McKenzie, who co-developed the swingometer; Charlie Cook, publisher of The Cook Political Report; Thomas Ferguson, for his Investment theory of party competition; Indian academic V.C. Sekhar Yogendra Yadav; and Curtis Gans, author of Voter Turnout in the United States, 1788–2009.
- "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
- Green, Antony. "Election Blog". ABC.
- Gans, Curtis (2010). Voter Turnout in the United States, 1788–2009. CQ Press. ISBN 978-1604265958.
- William Safire. New Political Dictionary, Random House, New York 1993.
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- '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