The British Election Studies (BES) at the University of Essex were initiated in 1974 to continue the series of election surveys previously conducted by David Butler and Donald Stokes at Nuffield College, Oxford (Political Change in Britain, 1963-1970). Surveys were conducted following the general elections of February 1974, October 1974, and May 1979, and following the Referendum on Britain's membership in the European Economic Community in 1975. The series has continued under the name British General Election Surveys (BGES), with surveys carried out at the time of each general election. The British General Election Survey has three general aims: (1) to collect data with a view to describing and explaining the outcome of general elections, (2) to analyze long-term changes in political attitudes and behavior from the early 1960s to the present, and (3) to organize and make available these data in a form suitable for a wide range of research. In 1992, a grant by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to the University of Strathclyde enabled the representation of Scottish electors in the sample to be boosted substantially. This "oversampling" of the Scots was undertaken to permit more detailed investigation of voting behavior in Scotland than has usually been the case with the British General Election Surveys. The 1992 surveys were carried out as part of the activities of the ESRC-funded Joint Unit for the Study of Social Trends (JUSST). The 1997 studies were carried out by JUSST's successor, CREST (Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends), in collaboration with Pippa Norris of Harvard University and with funding from the ESRC, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and the Commission for Racial Equality.
For more information, visit the British Election Studies Information System Web site.