Public Choice

, Volume 157, Issue 1–2, pp 73–90 | Cite as

Bandwagon effects in British elections, 1885–1910

  • Robert Hodgson
  • John Maloney


This article investigates possible bandwagons in actual elections rather than the usual opinion poll data. Until 1918, British general elections were staggered over a fortnight or more. We use the eight general elections between 1885 and 1910 to investigate whether there was a general bandwagon or underdog effect as the election progressed. We find that any bandwagon effect was in favor of the party which eventually won the election, not the party gaining seats compared with last time. We also find that a typical election featured an initial bandwagon effect which peaked about halfway through the election and then declined. Its decline appears to be due both to declining enthusiasm for the leading party and to later polls occurring in places where voters were less prone to get on a bandwagon in the first place. The weakening of the bandwagon was correlated to distance of the constituency from London, although it revived to some extent in Scotland.


Election Bandwagon Underdog Britain Sequential Swing 



We would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for funding the project of which this article is a part; and Jonathan Barry, Andrew Pickering, Adam Zerny and three anonymous referees for Public Choice for their comments on earlier versions of the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of YorkHeslingtonUK
  2. 2.University of Exeter Business SchoolExeterUK

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