A great primer on how political polling developed, its controversies and why it can be so wrong

Public opinion polls and British politics by Richard Hodder-Williams - book coverA book about political opinion polls from the 1970 may seem at first glance to be rather redundant to anyone interested in current politics and polling. That was, after all, not only a world pre-internet polling, it was also a world pre-Shy Tories and much of the modern methodological techniques and arguments which dominate discussion about polling of British elections.

However, that would be a mistake, for in the late 1960s and early 1970s political opinion polling was taking off, resulting in books such Richard Hodder-Williams’s which provide a clear and technically expert introduction to the basic ideas behind polling as well as the principled controversies over them (such as whether a poll is prediction of what will happen in the future or just a snapshot of the current state of play – and indeed, given people want to know about the future, is it practical to argue that a poll is not about the future?).

Public opinion polls and British politics won’t tell you all you might want to know about current political opinion polling, but it does provide a great introduction to what you should know about the background before plunging into the latest modern disputes – and throws in lots of historical detail to please the political geek.

As as an added bonus, the book includes a reference to the great and unfairly forgotten Eugene Burdick.

If you like this, you might also be interested in Britain at the polls: The Parliamentary elections of 1974, edited by Howard R. Penniman.

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