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Psephology is a term that was once used for the statistical study of elections. Psephology uses compilations of local or district election returns for elections going back some years, public opinion polls, campaign finance information and similar statistical data. The term was coined (from the Greek psephos, 'pebble', which the Greeks used as ballots) in the U.K. in 1948 by classicist scholar Frank Hardie to describe the scientific analysis of past elections. In the U.K. the term occasionally appears in the scholarly literature, but David Butler, the first scholar to use it in print, regrets the usage because of its occult connotations. [1]

In the U.S.A., the term has been very rarely used since the 1960s except in a sarcastic sense. Political journalists sometimes ridicule people who try to scientifically predict future elections by calling it psephology, suggesting it is akin to astrology. Thus journalist David Broder has explained, "The science of interpreting elections has a fancy name: psephology. A shorter, simpler and more accurate title for much election analysis is: fiction."[2]


  1. Butler (2003) p 250 at [1]
  2. David S. Broder, "Psephology Finds Only Voter Indifference;" syndicated column in Austin American Statesman Sep 16, 1989