British Election Studies

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1956 BES
  • Dates of Creation
      1963- [ongoing]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      Electronic data that is the range of tens of MBs dependant upon format and upon which component survey is used.
      Most datasets are available in a number of formats including SPSS, STATA and ASCII tab-delimited. The data can be converted to other formats such as SAS. Documentation is primarily supplied in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.Documentation is primarily supplied in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Scope and Content

The BES (held under the UK Data Archive generic study number 33066) has three general aims:

  • to collect data with a view to describing and explaining the outcome of general elections
  • to analyse long-term changes of political attitudes and behaviour from the early 1960s to the present
  • to organise and make available these data in a form suitable for a wide range of research

The BES covers the following main subject areas: Political preferences and values; economic perceptions; social attitudes; dispositions to engage in different forms of political activity; and individual and household socio-demographic characteristics.

The panel surveys are designed to analyse political change - to discover when and why voters change their political allegiances during an electoral cycle, and in response to what events. They examine voting or abstentions in local government and European elections as well as fluctuations in party support during the lead-up to general elections.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Election Studies constitute the longest academic series of nationally representative probability sample surveys in the country. The broad aim is to explore the changing determinants of electoral behaviour in contemporary Britain. The surveys have taken place immediately after every general election since 1964, giving a total of ten so far. There have also been two non-election year surveys (in 1963 and 1969), Scottish and Welsh booster studies at some elections, an ethnic minority booster sample in 1997, several campaign studies and a number of panel surveys.

The British Election Study for the 2001 general election, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, was based at the University of Essex.

Websites: University of Essex; Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends; National Centre for Social Research


Component studies of data series are held and supplied separately, usually as cross-sectional or panel datasets.

Conditions Governing Access

Available to UK Data Archive registered users.


Sources for the information in this record include the UK Data Archive catalogue records.

Record created by Karen Dennison, UK Data Archive

Other Finding Aids

UK Data Archive web pages:

University of Essex web pages:

Conditions Governing Use

Users are required to agree to certain conditions of use, including those governing reproduction and those relating to citation, acknowledgement and disclaimer for publications.

Appraisal Information

ll datasets available from the UK Data Archive have been reviewed by an Acquisitions Review Committee.


Data will continue to be received for the foreseeable future.

Related Material

Related datasets held at the UK Data Archive are listed in the appropriate UK Data Archive online catalogue records.


References and publications by principal investigators and resulting from secondary analysis are listed in the UK Data Archive online catalogue records.

Geographical Names