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ISSN: 2641-1768

Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

Review ArticleOpen Access

The Methodological Consequences of Subconscious Electoral Psychology-why Polls do not “Predict” Election Results

Volume 3 - Issue 3

Michael Bruter*

Received: January 03, 2020;   Published: January 17, 2020

DOI: 10.32474/SJPBS.2020.03.000164

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In the current period of “electoral surprises”, polls are regularly criticised for wrongly predicting electoral outcomes. In this article, I suggest that this stems from a misunderstanding of how polls should be used. Polls should not be taken literally as “predicting” the state of an election. Instead, if we inform both the conception of polls and their interpretation with current electoral psychology research, they can be very useful tools to indirectly understand how an election is shaping. In terms of polls conception, I highlight issues with questions phrasings (polls should only ask questions respondents actually have an answer to), sampling (including the lag between polls of respondents and pools of registered voters) and sampling controls (notably in quota samples which are solely reliant on a minimal number of social and demographic factors where psychological ones may be more critical to verify). In terms of process, we must acknowledge that about 20-30% of voters tend to make up or change their mind on the vote in the last week before an election, that casting a vote in a polling station is very different from answering a survey question from one’s home, and that citizens use polls as a source of information shaping their own electoral choice and behaviour through empathic displacement. Finally, in terms of interpretation, we must forget the deceptive and “lazy” simplicity of taking polls as a predicted vote to look for more complex symptoms such as whether the people who should be expected to support a certain party are indeed rallying behind it, polls volatility and how the votes of referees and supporters are shaping as they will explain different aspect of the final electoral result [1].

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