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Social and Political Change in Britain (1945-1991): Restoring Hundreds of Historical Public Opinion Surveys

This project, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, represents a partnership between the University of Southampton and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University. The project will restore hundreds of previously unanalyzed British public opinion polls conducted between 1945 and 1991. The data are currently stored in ‘column binary format’ based on IBM punch cards, rendering them inaccessible to most researchers today.

Digitizing the survey questionnaires and converting the data to modern formats will support new research and teaching by providing valuable insights on how the British public thought about key issues, personalities, and events, including the government, party leaders, international crises, and support for specific policies. The data also include insight into every-day activities, such as shopping, going on holiday, and seeing movies.

To date, this information has been lost to history, because only a small fraction of the original surveys have seen the light of day.

The project will convert approximately 700 of the 2,500 historical British surveys held in column binary format at the Roper Center. As part of the grant, British scholars, researchers, and citizens can suggest particular surveys to be converted. Send us your requests through the form button located below.

Principal Investigators

Will Jennings

Professor Will Jennings is Deputy Head of School, Research and Enterprise, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southampton. His research is concerned with questions relating to public policy and political behaviour – such as how issues get onto the policy agenda, how people form their vote preferences over time (and how polls do or don’t line up with the eventual outcome as election day approaches), how voters judge the competence of parties, and why major projects and sports events go over budget so often.

Peter Enns

Peter K. Enns is Associate Professor in the Department of Government, Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, an inaugural co-director of the Cornell Center for Social Sciences. His research focuses on public opinion and political representation, mass incarceration and the legal system, and time series analysis.

 

Project Goals

This project will develop a unique dataset that enables researchers to analyze how the major political, economic, and social shifts between the 1940s and 1990s influenced the dynamics of public opinion in Britain. It will firstly digitize all the codebooks of all Gallup surveys over the period between 1945 and 1991 (making them searchable online by researchers). It will further digitize around 700 surveys that contain questions relating to social, political and economic issues (and will specifically select 100 of these surveys through a user-led exercise enabling researchers to nominate those surveys to be prioritized for digitization). It will also create a ‘merged’ dataset of individual surveys that combines repeated cross-sectional measures of public attitudes and demographics – enabling researchers to track changes in public opinion by subgroup over time. Using this new data resource, it will explore long-term trends in social and political attitudes in Britain, their reaction to key events and how they vary across different cross-sections of society.

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • To digitize codebooks of all surveys conducted by the UK Gallup Poll between 1945 and 1991.
  • To convert 700 individual surveys conducted by the UK Gallup Poll between 1945 and 1991 from column binary data to current software and non-proprietary formats.
  • To create a merged time series dataset based on individual surveys that offers a repeated cross-sectional measure of public opinion.
  • To facilitate and promote the use of this new data resource by other researchers.
  • To enable educational and public use of longitudinal data on public opinion through the development of web-based data visualization tools.
  • To use this new data infrastructure to track and understand long-term dynamics of public opinion in Britain, especially across different groups (e.g. partisans, by age).

Suggest Surveys To Be Converted

We are currently accepting suggestions for surveys to be converted. Any suggestions should be submitted by September 15, 2020. You can search all surveys eligible for conversion here. You can also search by decade using the links below. If you would like to suggest a survey to be converted or request a copy of a full survey questionnaire, please submit your requests and questions to the Data Services Team using the contact form here so that your request is logged and tracked.  If you need assistance, don't hesitate to contact the Roper Data Services team in the U.S. via email at data-services@ropercenter.org or via telephone at 00-1-607-255-8129.

Links to Data By Decade

1950-1959
1960-1969

1970-1979
1980-1989
1990-1991

Additional Investigators

Dr. John Kenny

Dr John Kenny is a political scientist specialising in the areas of public opinion and environmental politics. He joins us from the University of Oxford, where he recently completed his DPhil, having previously completed a BSc in Government at University College Cork.

Dr. Andra Roescu

Dr. Andra Roescu is a political scientist interested in public opinion and attitudes, voting behavior, policy responsiveness and policy feedback effects, and quantitative research methods. She joins us from the European University Institute, having previously worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Southampton as part of HEALTHDOX, a Norface funded project focusing on the future of Health Care Systems across Europe. She holds a Ph.D. from the National School of Political Science and Public Administration, Romania.

Dr. Nick Or

Dr. Nick Or is a political scientist specializing in agenda-setting and public policy in hybrid and liberalizing regimes. He joins us from the University of Exeter where he is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the ERC-funded project ‘Regulating Civil Society: NGO and Party Law and their Consequences’. He completed his Ph.D. in politics and international relations at the University of Southampton.

Project Advisors

  • Professor Jane Green, University of Oxford and Principal Investigator on the British Election Study
  • Professor Roger Mortimore, King’s College London and Ipsos-MORI
  • Professor Sara Hobolt, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Professor Patrick Sturgis, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Professor Rosie Campbell, Kings College London
  • Professor James Tilley, University of Oxford
  • Professor David Sanders, University of Essex
  • Professor Christopher Wlezien, University of Texas at Austin
  • Professor Robert Shapiro, Columbia University
  • Dr Mark Roodhouse, University of York
  • William C. Block, Director of the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research
  • Louise Corti, Associate Director, UK Data Service/UK Data Archive
  • Johnny Heald, ORB International
  • Murray Goot, Professor of Politics, Macquarie University