Politics A-level


We have a lot of very interesting content on contemporary Politics in our MORI and NOP collections – particularly on Opinion Polling which will no doubt be an interesting topic before the 2024 Election!

Both Opinion polls and Political Parties are mentioned in the A-Level curriculum, so here is a selection of reports in the Archive that might be of interest to you:

  1. Who’s Afraid of Election Polls? Normative and Empirical Arguments for the Freedom of Pre-Election Surveys
  2. The Use and Abuse of Opinion Polls (Robert Worcester)
  3. A compilation of statistics covering British general elections and by-elections 1945-1970
  4. NOP Bulletin – Opinion Polls and the 1970 General Election and Post Election Survey 1970
  5. The Opinion Polls and the 1992 General Election
  6. The Fluctuating Fortunes of the U.K. Social Democratic Party

We have contemporary opinion polls, surveys on immigration and of immigrants, attitudes to social change such as divorce, abortion, capital and corporal punishment, the financial equality act, attitudes to Mrs Thatcher throughout her tenure as Prime Minister… and lots more. It’s a mine of contemporary material suitable for A-level students.


Research into the 1974 General Elections

The two 1974 General Elections are of particular interest at the moment as they have some remarkable similarities with the upcoming election – even 50 years on!  The major issues at the time were:  inflation, Common Market/EU, energy crisis, strikes, Middle East & Irish troubles/Israel & Ukraine, immigration. And both major parties had unpopular leaders! In the Archive we have NOP reports from:

In the Archive have 3 key NOP reports from 1974:

Wikipedia is the best source for the general background.

There were two elections in 1974: the first on Feb 28 which resulted in an (unexpected) dead heat and hung parliament and the second on Oct 10 which gave a Labour victory.

The material we have goes into what the polls got wrong in the February election.  It seems that it was mainly due to late switching from Liberal to Labour – confirmed in March/April report. Presumably some Liberals decided that voting Liberal would be a wasted vote?

From these NOP reports three things seem of particular interest, especially from the point of view of a comparison with the 2024 Election:

  1. Wilson wasn’t actually very popular beforehand – but became very popular afterwards – could there be a parallel with Starmer now?
  2. Inflation was a key issue at the time – as it is now
  3. Jeremy Thorpe – and the success of the Liberal party at the time – if he’d gone into coalition with Heath in Feb, who knows what would have happened. Maybe we would have proportional representation by now?

One other interesting thought is that an area of similarity is that both 2024 and 1974 elections will be fought by unpopular leaders of both parties!

If you want to investigate that as a theory, then this report is interesting:  from 1973 we have answers to the question – who would make the best PM? NOP Political Bulletin: a Special Report on Public Opinion, April 1973 – August 1973, for the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys – NOP Reports – The AMSR Online Archive (oclc.org)

Another angle that may be worth researching is: do people ‘see’ opinion polls and are they influenced by them? Which seems to have been an issue at the time.

You’ll see from the NOP reports above that the % claiming to have seen the polls was rising steadily: from 56% in 1970, 58% in early 1974, 60% in Oct 1974 to 67% in 1979. And, if you  read Worcester’s Conclusion in Pollsters, the Press, and Political Polling in Britain – Opinion Poll Reports – The AMSR Online Archive (oclc.org) there’s a nice quote from Harold Wilson at the end.

There’s also (in the previous section of the same paper) an interesting note that the BBC got the forecast from an exit poll very wrong in the Oct 1974 election.  They predicted 150 majority vs 3 actually achieved!  Much to the annoyance of Humphrey Taylor. Though it can be seen in  British voting trends 1979-1992: exit poll summaries – Opinion Poll Reports – The AMSR Online Archive (oclc.org) that the data was subsequently analysed properly and the exit poll is subsequently described as being accurate.

Arguments about Polls are not new!

The main purpose of researching the 1974 elections was to see what could be learned to reflect upon the upcoming election 50 years later.

Similarities and differences between the 1974 election and now



  • Unemployment was a major issue then, the Unions were a big problem (who rules Britain?), there was a very strong third (Liberal) party with a popular leader who had been gaining rapidly in the Polls (is this something that could repeat in 2024?)

There are more similarities than differences, and a good question to think about is: whatever would have happened if Jeremy Thorpe had accepted Heath’s invitation to form a coalition after the February election?!!  It’s astonishing just how well the Liberal Party were doing at the time, and how very popular Thorpe was. This page in particular shows he was considered the most impressive party leader in Feb 74 : NOP Political Bulletin 1974 February – NOP Reports – The AMSR Online Archive (oclc.org)).  Food for thought!

We hope that the case study above inspires you to use the Archive for your studies. We have data from all post war UK elections.  And we intend to produce a review of the 2024 (2025?) election as soon as it is over – so that you can be totally up-to-date with your studies.

Please do contact us if you have any specific areas that we could help with. We have other reports on other political parties, immigration, crime, capital punishment, Welsh and Scottish independence etc, which are useful for coursework and independent study.

teacher and pupil