Election surprise

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An election surprise (also a pre-election surprise, or, in the U.S., October surprise, where elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November) is an event which occurs preceding an election which has enough shock value that it may be able to sway voters in close elections. When planned, an election surprise may be an act of propaganda. Election surprises typically fall into categories such as terrorism, political scandals, etc.

There may be disagreement as to what constitutes an election surprise for several reasons:

  • There may be general disagreement as to whether the event in question affected, or was intended to affect the outcome of the election, especially as the event and the election may occur in different countries.
  • There may be a lack of consensus as to which party the election surprise may have helped, or was intended to help.
  • The relative weight of a declaration, and the ability to catch on, help to distinguish true election surprises from minor events.
  • What was a surprise for some of the population may have been obvious for another part (such as the total deaths accumulated in a military activity).
  • The role a speech act, such as an expression of opinion/research could play. The documentary Hacking Democracy may not constitute an election surprise, whereas a statement issued by Osama bin Laden might.

Rumours of potential election surprises may also abound preceding an election.

The term "election surprise" may also be used to denote an election with a surprising outcome.

List of possible election surprises[edit]

United States[edit]

Main article: October surprise


  1. ^ Gary Sick. 1991. October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House.

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