The Polls: Britain at the Polls 1945-1983

Worcester, Robert M.
December 1984
Public Opinion Quarterly;Winter84, Vol. 48 Issue 4, p824
Academic Journal
This article looks at the influence of public opinion polls on the voters based on the experience of Great Britain between 1945 and 1983. The late George Gallup replied to criticism that repeated polls themselves have undue influence on voters on voting day by saying, "One might as well insist that a thermometer makes the weather." The evidence is in Great Britain that public opinion polls do influence the way some people vote and that they're being taken into account by increasingly large numbers of people, especially in by-election situations where tactical voting is more prevalent. After the last general election 4.5. percent of British voters said they were influenced by the polls. This was twice as true of Liberal/SDP Alliance supporters as for supporters of the more established Conservative and Labour parties. In 1983 the Labour Party lost the election as no party in Britain has lost an election before. The combination of a too left-wing manifesto, combined with a divided Labour Party, combined with a leader thought to be inadequate for the job resulted in a 10-point lower Labour share of the vote from the lowest figure recorded before; 16 percentage points lower that the average of their share in the 11 general elections since 1945. The Conservatives, on the other hand, in 1983 received 44 percent share, almost exactly their 11-election average.


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