Why do joke candidates campaign at elections?

30 August 2021

Professor Winnifred Louis from UQ's School of Psychology discusses why joke candidates campaign at elections with ABC News Online

Professor Louis said there were four evidence-based reasons why joke candidates appeared.

"One [reason] is larrikins, where probably younger people, probably friends, egg each other on," she said.

"The motivation is the laughs and the attention and feeling like they're causing a ruckus and a stir.

"Another reason is low political interest and anger about compulsory voting."

In that case, Professor Louis says "people don't care who wins".

"They just want to make the point that the system is contemptible," she said.

The third reason is strategic, where a joke candidate is used to attract votes away from a close rival.

"You can put up a joke candidate that may attract something like 5 per cent of the votes and the preferences of that person can be used to win a title election," Professor Louis said.

"That's a bit cynical and in fact fraudulent.

Professor Louis said the last reason for a joke candidate was the most common.

"Which is a protest that the major parties don't offer a good choice, that the field is bad," she said.

"People are motivated to ridicule and humiliate the other candidates in the field and send a message like, 'A third of the people in your electorate would rather vote for a dog than you.'"

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