Public Polls and Private Polls

  • David Butler
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky


The public opinion polls had already claimed a major role in any account of the 1970 election even before they got the answer wrong. As the number of regularly published polls had increased in the later 1960s, so had the attention accorded them; their influence permeated all reports about the party battle. During the 1970 campaign there were in fact five national polls — and two of them were producing two sets of national findings. Although this number was not much more than during the 1966 campaign the impact was enormously enhanced because exclusive publication was abandoned. Gone were the attempts to prevent plagiarisation by rival journals or by the broadcasters; no paper held up its findings to its later editions or sent letters invoking the copyright laws. As each poll emerged it was reported in the news bulletins1 and in the national papers — even in ones which were simultaneously publishing a poll of their own with a different answer. Poll stories dominated campaign reporting; in the extreme case, eight of the 23 issues of The Times published between May 18 and June 18 referred to them in their main front page headlines. In an election marked by few major events and few colourful incidents or phrases, these reports on the latest racing form had an especial appeal to the newsmakers.


Public Opinion Poll Labour Lead Final Forecast Sunday Time Public Poll 
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  1. 1.
    In some measure the inspiration for this approach can be traced to the longterm study of political attitudes launched at Nuffield College in 1963 and reported in 1969 m David Butler and Donald Stokes, Political Change in Britain. In its turn, this study was influenced by panel studies carried out at the University of Michigan for A. Campbell et. al., The American Voter (New York, 1960).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Michael Pinto-Duschinsky 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky
    • 2
  1. 1.Nuffield CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Pembroke CollegeOxfordUK

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