Sociophysics: can we predict voting outcomes?

Sociophysics: can we predict voting outcomes?

Serge Galam, Senior researcher at CNRS/CEVIPOF
  • Actualité Sciences PoActualité Sciences Po

Sociophysics combines tools and concepts from the physics of disorder and collective behaviour in inanimate matter to construct models applicable to certain aspects of social and political phenomena. More precisely Sociophysics proceeds in the physicist’s way building models brick by brick, keeping apart from seductive but ultimately sterile metaphors with political realities. It is today a young flourishing field of international research at the edge of the unknown, yet mainly confined to theoretical physicists.  At the frontiers of the social sciences, it is now necessary to confront the reality of social and political phenomena. The underlying critical question is whether it is possible, at least in part, to turn “hard” some aspects of the social sciences? To address such a question in the form of an interpellation, models with heuristic power must be constructed in order to make precise predictions about real events, and then to evaluate the validity of these models.

This seminar will contribute in breaching the gap with social sciences focusing on the modeling of opinion dynamics studying in details a model I have been developing for thirty years. Up to day, it incorporates three types of individual behavior, rationality, stubbornness and contrarianism. The paradoxical effect of prejudices and cognitive biases will be shown to appear spontaneously in the dynamics of the model.

On top of the phenomenon of opinion dynamics, unavowed abstention either direct or via blank, null and void ballots will be investigated to find that, beyond some magnitude, it can reverse poll estimates on the voting day making the minority candidate or choice to unexpectedly win the election against all anticipations.

Three salient recent election outcomes with the Brexit, the Trump victory and Le Pen failure will be revisited in light of the model.

The organization of the classes, number of hours per meeting, periodicity and language (possibility to switch to French), will be decided together during the first class. Accepted students will be informed on the date and location late October.


* To get an overview of sociophysics content, see the Table of content of a Master course I am currently giving at Sciences Po.

* Sociophysics: A Physicist's Modeling of Psycho-political Phenomena Series: Understanding Complex Systems, Serge Galam, Springer (2012) 439 p

To register please send few sentences of motivation (5/10 lines) and a CV (2 pages maximum) to Serge GALAM ( and Marie Rose Pereira ( before january 5th . You will then be informed shortly if you are accepted. The number of  participants is limited to 20. Master 1 & 2 students are eligible to register to this seminar. 

Serge Galam, Senior researcher at CNRS, member of CEVIPOF, Centre for Political Research, Sciences Po and CNRS, Paris (

Schedule and location:

First session: Monday, January 15 from 17 to 19h in the Lavau room at CEVIPOF - 98 rue de l'université Paris 75007

The schedule of the following courses will be established with the participants.

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