The ‘scientisation of the political’, understood as the increasing influence of social science within twentieth century (party) politics, provides insight into politicians’ conceptions of political representation and the shifts in those conceptions over time. Social science based knowledge exerted a profound effect on how parties approached political identity formation and on their perceptions of the electorate. Based on a Dutch case study, this article tracks the impact of electoral geography and mass psychology and, from the 1940s onwards, electoral research and polling data on party strategies, showing the important role played by party political think tanks which acted as hubs of social-scientific knowledge. Comparisons with British and West German political parties reveal the complex reception and negotiation of social scientific insights regarding the nature and behaviour of the electorate, as well as the persistence of ingrained stereotypes.
- political history
- Political Science