Monday, November 26, 2012

A Behavioural Analysis of the Catalan Election

Yesterday the snap Catalan election that was called to give the Catalan president, the center-right nationalist politician Artur Mas, an overall majority, delivered a big electoral surprise as his party obtained 50 out of 135 seats in Parliament, losing 12 seats. Three temptative factors make help explain what happened, getting inspiration from behavioural economics:
1) Availability Bias. Mr Mas tried to capitalize on the mass demonstration of 9-11 in Barcelona, where a big crowd marched in favour of independence, by saying that he himself supported independence, changing the moderate trajectory of his party. Unfortunately, scientific calculations showing that the demonstrators were not 1.5 million but 600.000, and not a representative sample, and that they were marching for a variety of reasons, were not heeded.
2) Social Pressure. When a well organized minority is very noisy, herd behaviour pushes many people (even hitherto moderate politicians) to forget about doubts, uncertainties, and ideologies that embrace complexity.
3) Categories. Do we face huge social and economic problems in a very complex situation? Let's solve them using a category we think we know (a new nation state) and everything will be fixed...

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