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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Elections get their own equation
C=Personal contact by party
I=A belief that any of the parties can handle important issue
P=Parental interest in politics
V=Perception that my vote will count
D=Sense of voting as a duty
N=Perception of the nature of the national competition between the parties
S=Perception of how safe the local seat is
X=Motivation to vote
Forget swingometers, opinion poll numbers and turnout figures, now there is new maths for elections: an equation on why people bother to vote.

The elections watchdog has asked psychologists to come up with the new formula to encourage people to think more about their vote.

It suggests people's motivation to vote comes from factors such as a sense of duty or contact with parties.

Perception of the election contest is another factor in the new equation.

Psychologist and motivation expert Cliff Arnall devised the formula as part of the Electoral Commission's attempts to encourage people to vote in the 4 May local elections in England.

Nature and nurture

Dr Arnall said: "There are many factors which affect why people do or do not vote, including demographics, attitudes and experiences.

"This equation explores how much of that decision to vote is down to personal experience and motivations.

"Think of it as 'nature' and 'nurture'. Our motivation to vote is both about predisposition to vote - 'nature' - and how stimulated we are by the election environment - 'nurture'.

"Be it a general or local election, our personal opinions and experiences are as key to our motivation to vote as the election campaign environment."

The equation can be tried on the commission's About My Vote website.

Turnout worries

Turnout at local elections was 61% on average last year when there was a general election on the same day.

But in previous year it has stood at 35-40%.

Angela Salt, communication director at The Electoral Commission said she hoped the equation would make people think about what affects their motivation to vote.

"Our councils have responsibility for many of the services we use everyday, from rubbish collection and sports facilities to road safety, but the bottom line is that if you don't vote on 4 May you lose the opportunity to have your say," she said.

The equation could be one of the few maths questions where the correct answer gets not a tick but a cross... on the ballot paper.

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