Father of Contemporary Electoral Science, David Butler, dies at 98

David Butler is the father of modern election science whose career spanned more than 70 years.

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Sir David Butler, the father of contemporary electoral science, passes away aged 98

The academic, who invented the Swingometer and pioneered exit polls, died on Tuesday night, according to his son, according to the PA news agency.

Butler’s friend and biographer, the journalist Michael Crick, paid tribute to him as the “father of psephology” – a word that Butler promoted early in his career to describe “the new study of election science based on the Greek word psephos for pebble which the ancient Greeks used to vote in elections”. “For decades Butler was the foremost psephologist in Britain and around the world,” Crick said.

Butler himself once described the term as an “awful, silly, academic joke” that “hangs like an albatross around my neck”.

His son Ed Butler also told PA: “My father was immensely influential in academic terms.”

Nick Robinson, a BBC broadcaster and former political editor, Deborah Turness, Matt Goodwin, Anthony Wells, the director of European political and social research at YouGov UK, and Nick Thomas-Symonds, a shadow secretary of state for trade, have all expressed tribute. 


To honor Sir David’s passing, the flags of his alma mater, New College Oxford, and the college where he taught, Nuffield College, are flying at half-staff.

In 1992, David Butler resigned as a fellow at Nuffield. He continued to write and talk well into his nineties and was still an Emeritus Fellow.

At the age of 25, Sir David Crick, according to Crick, joined the BBC as its in-house analyst for its inaugural election results TV show in 1950, a position the professor held until 1979. Sir Winston Churchill met with him twice for extended periods of time in the 1950s to help the former prime minister comprehend elections.

He mentioned how the Political Studies Association’s 60th-anniversary celebrations recognized his book, Political Change in Britain, co-written with Donald Stokes, as the finest book in British political studies from 1950 to 2010. He first used the Swingometer during the BBC’s election night program in 1955. It gained prominence in the BBC’s 1959 election program and has since been a staple of election coverage across the globe.

Early Life

David Butler attended New College, Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics. His studies were cut short when he was commissioned as a lieutenant to fight in World War II.

Early Life

David Butler was Born on 17 October 1924(98 years old). His Zodiac sign is Libra. He holds British nationality and he belongs to the white race.

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Personal Life

David Butler is survived by his two sons, Ed and Daniel; his son Gareth, who worked with him on his books and a radio show, and his wife Marilyn Evans predeceased him.