Study uses physics to explain democratic elections

By David L. Chandler 

It may seem surprising, but theories and formulas derived from physics turn out to be useful tools for understanding the ways democratic elections work, including how these systems break down and how they could be improved.

A new physics-based study finds that in the U.S., elections went through a transition in 1970, from a condition in which election results captured reasonably well the greater electorate’s political preferences, to a period of increasing instability, in which very small changes in voter preferences led to significant swings toward more extreme political outcomes in both directions.

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