Thom Yorke explained in an interview in 1997 that "Electioneering" was inspired by the writings of the media critic Noam Chomsky. He said: "Like a lot of songs I write, it came from two places at once. I had this phase I went through on an American tour where we just seemed to be shaking hands all the time, and I was getting a bit sick of it and upset by it. So I came up with this running joke with myself, where I used to shake people's hands and say, 'I trust I can rely on your vote.' They'd go hahaha and look at me like I was a nutcase. But the phrase sort of carried on. It was like a mantra. "As well as that, I had been reading a lot of Chomsky, and I had that feeling when you read Chomsky that you want to get out and do something and realize, in fact, that you're impotent."
Eventually after scribbling pages and pages of lyrics about the third world and wars and world politics, Yorke thought of Chomsky's writings and ended up summing it up with the phrase: "Cattle prods and the IMF" (International Monetary Fund, a global financial monitoring agency). "There's no other way to say it, really," he added.