Public Polls and Private Polls

  • David Butler
  • Dennis Kavanagh


The election provided a major challenge to the opinion polls. The accuracy of their voting forecasts offers the most public test of the reliability of their methods as market researchers — and it is as market researchers that they earn their living. Their credibility had been seriously damaged by the 1992 election. The four surveys published on 9 April 1992 had suggested a narrow Labour lead, ranging between 3 per cent and −0.5 per cent. In the actual vote the Conservatives won by 7.6 per cent. The pollsters were much mocked, and broadcasters and newspapers decided to give their surveys less prominence. However, all the main broadsheet newspapers, in some cases after a pause, continued to publish polls on voting intentions and their findings, showing the government far behind, were to overshadow the politics of the next five years and the 1997 election campaign.


Focus Group Opinion Poll Cent Lead Labour Lead Market Research Society 
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  1. 1.
    See Market Research Society, The Opinion Polls and the 1992 General Election (July 1994). See also N. Sparrow, ‘Improving Polling Techniques Following the 1992 Election’, Journal of the Market Research Society, 1993, and R. Jowell et al., ‘1992 British Election: The Failure of the Polls’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 1994.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Dennis Kavanagh
    • 2
  1. 1.OxfordUK
  2. 2.University of LiverpoolUK

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