Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Who needs Morgan, Newspoll or Gallup?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-05-07

Perhaps the psephologists can put away their statistical tables…

According to this paper in Science (I don’t just keep an eye on Nature), kids as young as five can pick election-winners from photos.

It makes you think that the voting public isn’t much smarter than a 5-year old.

So… what about giving minors the vote?  They can’t do worse than the average adult!

The original paper "Predicting Elections: Child’s Play!" by Antonakis and Dalgas (Science 2009-02-27: 1183 DOI: 10.1126/science.1167748) is subscription only, but there is a good review in SciAm Mind-and-Brain online edition you all can see, having the teaser "The emerging–and disturbing–science of how candidates’ physical appearances influence our choice in leaders", and containing the following snippet:

You wouldn’t think, therefore, that a group of children would be able to predict the outcome of elections in another country, based only on photos of the candidates. And yet, this is exactly what a recent study in the journal Science has found. The study, conducted by psychologists John Antonakis and Olaf Dalgas at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, shows that Swiss children as young as five years can predict which candidates are more likely to win French parliamentary elections.

You can get a podcast of an interview with one of the researchers here (although you may have to register with ScienceOnline first, but this costs nothing).  Supplementary on-line materials/methods and extended results are here, with the following graph showing a surprisingly flat curve:

Age and Electoral Prediction Probability

Age and Electoral Prediction Probability

I bet the pre-selection committees of the major parties are all sitting back smugly and saying: "News?  Not!  Been factoring that in for years!"



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