Putting the election jargon into plain English

By Elaine Loughlin, political reporter

With the election campaign now in full swing we will be hearing a lot more about the fiscal space, fiscal deficit and long-term economic plans.

To guide voters through the mire of jargon the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has produced a plain English guide to political terms ahead of the general election.

Inez Bailey, Director, NALA said: “Politics is awash with terms and phrases that are beloved of commentators and politicians alike. That’s why we wrote this guide – to help people to better understand what is being said. We hope that the guide will help more people get involved in political activity and the general election.

“We also encourage political parties to use less jargon and to be more aware of the issues faced by the 1 in 6 adults with literacy difficulties in Ireland. While political jargon allows politicians to talk about issues in a quicker, coded way, it can also act as a real barrier for people accessing information,” she said.

Sample of terms in the guide:

Bandwagon effect: The tendency for a popular candidate or proposal to gather even more support simply because they appear to be winning; also called the ‘snowball effect’.

Canvassing: Trying to win votes by contacting voters directly, for example by going door to door.

‘Dark horse’ candidate: An almost unknown contestant in an election who achieves unexpected support.

Floating voter: A person who is undecided about how to vote in an election or referendum; a voter who doesn’t always vote for the same political party.

Front runner: A candidate who is likely to win an election or be nominated by their party to take part in an election.

Gerrymander: Deliberately dividing a constituency in a way that gives an advantage to one political party or to particular voters.

Hustings: Public meetings in the run-up to an election where candidates outline their policies as part of their election campaign.

Incumbent: A person who currently holds a post or office.

Landslide victory: An overwhelming majority of votes for one candidate or party in an election.

Marginal seat: A seat held by a political party by a very narrow margin and, so, at risk of being lost.

Mudslinging: The practice of saying negative things about an opponent during a political campaign; also known as ‘dirty politics’.

Quota: The number of votes that a candidate needs to win a seat under the proportional representation (PR) system.

Returning Officer: A person who supervises the counting of votes during an election or referendum, and who certifies and officially announces the results.

Single Transferable Vote – STV: A system of voting where several seats are available in a constituency. A person votes for their preferred candidate, and any unused votes for that candidate (for example, if they already have enough to be elected) are transferred to other candidates in the constituency until all seats are filled.

Spin: Public relations (PR) activity, for example press releases or interviews, or a way of presenting information that aims to enhance the public image of a person or group, such as a politician or their party, at the expense of a political opponent or the opposition party.

Swing voter: A person who votes, but whose support can switch from one political party to another, depending on the issue at stake.

Tallyman: A person who attends the counting of votes and, by watching the process, carries out an unofficial count of the ballot papers as the official count progresses.

Most Read in Ireland