The British Election Study

The ESRC-funded British Election Study (BES) has carried out large-scale interviews of the British electorate immediately after every general election since 1964. It is one of the longest running election studies world-wide and the longest running social science survey in the UK - looking at why people vote, and why they vote the way they do.

The first study, conducted by David Butler and Donald Stokes, transformed the study of electoral behaviour in the UK. The survey-based methodology enabled them to test a variety of explanations for why people made electoral decisions. The use of a random sampling approach enabled the researchers to apply their conclusions to the population in general.

Since then the BES has provided data to help researchers understand changing patterns of party support and election outcomes. The data cover political preferences and values; dispositions to engage in different forms of political activity; and individual and household socio-demographic characteristics.

The BES data provides in-depth understanding of the way representative democracy functions in British elections, and gives unique insights into British public opinion, participation, attitudes towards politics and explanations of electoral outcomes.