LSE formally launched the Electoral Psychology Observatory (EPO), located within the Department of Government.
The event unveiled a range of EPO research projects aiming to understand the psychology of voters and its interactions with election processes and the political environment, and is led by the EPO’s Director, Professor Michael Bruter, and its Deputy Director Dr Sarah Harrison.
The event launched Professor Bruter and Dr Harrison’s new book ‘Inside the Mind of a Voter’ (Princeton University Press), an in-depth study of the psychology of voters around the world, and two new research projects: ‘The Age of Hostility’, a 27-country mixed method investigation into the rising worldwide phenomenon of electoral hostility, sponsored by the European Research Council, and ‘First and Foremost’, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council, which analyses the electoral experience of first-time voters and how it can be improved. The EPO launch included a roundtable discussion at the Houses of Parliament on that topic.
The EPO also launched two major new resources which shed light on the current political environment: the Hostility Barometer Series, jointly run with the market research agency Opinium, which tracks levels of hostility amongst British and US citizens, perceptions of electoral atmosphere and democratic frustration, and the Almanac of Electoral Ergonomics, which maps differences in processes likely to affect the experience and satisfaction of voters across democracies and highlights best practice.
The EPO’s pioneering research to help institutions improve elections and democracy was also highlighted by the presentation of a unique EPO project,“designing the ideal polling station”, involving the EPO team and world leading architects, designers, landscapers, and cultural design companies, as well as associations representing young voters and those affected by mental health issues and learning disabilities.
Commenting on the range of EPO projects, Dr Harrison said: “Our work is quite unique in that it tries to apply unprecedented scientific approaches so that research can be used in the real world to better understand voters, their needs, and how to improve elections and make them better and more inclusive.”
Professor Bruter said: “Many electoral outcomes puzzle commentators and political elites again, and increasing numbers of citizens express doubts about the ability of democracy to ‘do its job’ and resolve conflict in society.
"We believe that it is for science to tackle the big questions and break methodological frontiers, from visual and physiological experiments to day by day election diaries and family focus groups. To resolve some critical mysteries and ensure that citizens’ needs are put at the heart of electoral organisation.”