The psychology of snap elections

Raj Persaud and Adrian Furnham point to a 2003 study which argues that the timing of an election tells the electorate how confident the government feels about the future. Both the article and the paper are worth a read, but the short version is this:

  • We all know that the government knows more than we know about how things are likely to pan out.
  • So we tend to assume that a competent and confident (or even a strong and stable) government is not going to feel the need to dash to the polls. This is borne out by looking at past election timings.
  • So when a government does call a snap election, it’s because the Prime Minister thinks that things are going to start going very badly in the near future. This is also borne out by past election timings.
  • And deep down, regardless of the ratings when the election is called, we realise this

When Theresa May called the election in April, it was widely assumed that she would win a landslide. What has happened instead is that the electorate called her bluff.

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