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A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.

The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading its flock of sheep.The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.


In politics, the term is more often applied in the passive sense to describe a geographic region where political tendencies match in microcosm those of a wider area, such that the result of an election in the former region might predict the eventual result in the latter. In a Westminster-style election, for example, a constituency, the control of which tends frequently to change, can mirror in its popular vote the result on a national scale.


In Australian federal elections, the electoral divisions of Eden-Monaro in New South Wales and Leichhardt in Queensland have elected Members of Parliament from the party which won government at every federal election since 1972. The Division of Lindsay in NSW has elected its member of parliament from the party which won government in every Federal election since its creation in 1984. It is the only existing division in the country to have such a bellwether title. The electoral Division of Macarthur in New South Wales was a bellwether from the 1949 election until 2004. However, at the 2007 election Macarthur stayed as a Liberal seat despite a change of government, with sitting MP Pat Farmer narrowly surviving a 11% swing against him. The state of New South Walesmarker could also be considered a bellwether, as the party which wins government has won the majority of House of Representatives seats in that state at every election since 1963. Unlike many bellwethers, these are cited by analysts solely for their record and are not usually attributed demographic factors that reflect the median of Australia.


In the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker, Sarnia-Lambton (and its predecessor ridings) have voted for the winning party in every federal election beginning with 1963. Also in Ontario, Peterborough has been won by the party who has won the most seats overall in provincial elections since 1977.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdommarker, the Basildon constituencymarker has reflected the overall result in every General Election since its creation in 1974. Graveshammarker and its predecessor Gravesend had a perfect record of voting for the winning party or the one with the largest share of the vote in every election from the First World War until 2005, when they voted Conservative. Bristol North Westmarker is also considered something of a bellwether, with its voters having elected the candidate of the winning party in every election since October 1974, though it failed to do so on a number of occasions prior to this.

United States


In the United Statesmarker, Missourimarker, often referred to as the Missouri bellwether, has produced the same outcome as the national results in every presidential election beginning in 1904, except in 1956 and in 2008. However, since the 2008 election, Missouri's status as the best bellwether state is in doubt, with both Nevadamarker and Ohiomarker appearing to match the national results more consistently. The American bellwether states are [141392]:

In addition, the Territory of Guammarker has had no misses from 1984 on (100.0%). Guam has no electoral college votes, but conducts a straw vote on local election day.


American bellwether counties include:

  • Vigo County, Indianamarker (county seat: Terre Hautemarker) - 2 misses (1908, 1952) from 1892 on, perfect since 1956 Since 1960, Vigo County had been within 3 percent of the national presidential vote every election. In 2008, Vigo County again voted with the winner, but Obama's percentage of 57.3% was about 4.4% above Obama's national vote.

A list of the top 50 American bellwether counties between 1980 and 2004 is available here.

Stock market

In the stock market, a bellwether (barometer stock in the UK) is the stock of a company that is regarded as a leader in its given industry. The performance of the stock is said to reflect the performance of the industry in general. These stocks are used as barometers for the rest of the market. JPMorgan Chase is an example of a bellwether stock. As one of the major bank in the US, it sets the tone for the rest of the industry. JPMorgan Chase also has contracts with companies in other industries so its performance is reflected in other sectors of the market.


In sociology, the term is applied in the active sense to a person or group of people who tend to create, influence or set trends.


Trends in expenditure in the UK advertising and marketing industry are monitored in the quarterly Bellwether Report, published by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

See also



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