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'Fish-and-Chip Intelligence': Henry Durant and the British Institute of Public Opinion, 1936-1963

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Publication details

JournalTwentieth Century British History
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 May 2012
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2013
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)224-248
Early online date23/05/12
Original languageEnglish


In 1937, a year after ‘scientific’ opinion polling began in America, the Gallup Poll came to Britain. The British Institute of Public Opinion (BIPO), owned and managed by Henry Durant, was Gallup’s first overseas affiliate. Although BIPO was a profit-making concern, Durant operated the business for more than profit. He was a sincere believer in polling’s potential to democratize government and business. Like his mentor Gallup, Durant fell short of his stated aims. The sample survey was not a precision tool for ‘taking the pulse of democracy’. It contained irredeemable flaws that homogenized the private opinions of a skewed cross-section of British society while commercial pressures forced Durant to make trade offs between cost and quality, and clients’ needs and best survey practice.

    Research areas

  • social surveys, public opinion, Gallup, opinion polls

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