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Underdog Effect

Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck


The underdog effect is a phenomenon of →  public opinion impinging upon itself: when at an election voters perceive a particular party or candidate to be the likely winner, they tend to support a competitor who is expected to lose – an “underdog” in the race. This implies that apparent success may undermine itself. The origin of the term is unclear, although it is sometimes claimed that it was first used at the 1948 US presidential election. Simon (1954) was the first to use it in a scientific analysis. The underdog effect is one of several hypothesized manifestations of “impersonal influence” – effects on individuals' attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors that derive from these persons' impressions about the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors of collectives of anonymous others outside the realm of their personal contacts ( Mutz 1998 ; →  Social Perception: Impersonal Impact ). Other examples are the → “ bandwagon effect ,” complementing the underdog effect by assuming a positive impact of perceived majority opinion, and the notion of “strategic” or “tactical” voting, which expects electors to refrain from choosing their candidate or party of first preference if they perceive it to be only weakly supported by others, in order not to waste their vote (→  Perceived Reality as a Communication Process ). In the literature, the underdog effect is typically treated as a companion to the bandwagon ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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