British Election Timing Data, 1900-2001 (ICPSR 3974)

Published: Mar 30, 2006 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Alastair Smith, New York University. Department of Politics

Version V1

This research project explored when governments call elections and how the timing of elections influences the electoral result. In many parliamentary systems, the timing of the next election is at the discretion of the current government. Rather than waiting for the end of their term, leaders are free to call elections when it is advantageous to them and when they expect to win. This project was designed to use game theory to model how leaders decide whether to call elections based on their expectations about future performance. The data collected for this study reflect the timing of the British General Elections. In particular, this study addressed five research questions: (1) When are elections called? (2) What are the electoral implications of the timing of an election? (3) How are election timing and subsequent post-electoral economic performance related? (4) How does the election timing affect the length of the campaign? and (5) How does the London stock market respond to the announcement of elections? The data cover the time span from 1900 to 2001, although most of the files focus on the period from August 1, 1945, to June 13, 2001. Part 1 (Dates of Key Political Events Data) contains the dates of key political events, such as elections, first meetings of parliament, dissolutions, announcements of an election, by-elections, shifts in party allegiances, confidence votes, or changes in Prime Minister. Additional variables in Part 1 include whether there is a minority government or coalition government, percentage share of the vote by party type, number of seats by party type, and election turnout. Part 2 (By-Elections Data) includes the change in seats as a result of by-elections. Variables include the date of the by-election, electoral district, and change in seats by political parties. Part 3 (Change in Party Allegiance Data) contains information about the date of the allegiance shift, the electoral district, and defections to and from various political parties. Part 4 (Public Opinion Data) includes Gallup public opinion data on voting intentions, approval of government record, and approval of Prime Minister and opposition leader. Part 5 (Basic Economic Variables) contains basic economic data for the United Kingdom, such as various measures of gross domestic product and change in retail price index. Part 6 (Monthly Inflation Data) contains monthly inflation data as measured by the percentage change in retail price index. Part 7 (Unemployment Data) consists of monthly, quarterly, and yearly unemployment data. Part 8 (Stock Market Data) includes data on the United Kingdom market index, United States Dow Jones industrial average, Standard and Poors' composite index, the Financial Times 500 stock index, and Datastream's measure of British funds on the London Exchange. Part 9 (Financial Times 30 Share Index Data) contains the Financial Times 30 close and the volume of bargains. Lastly, Part 10 (Newspaper Stories Data) consists of counts of newspaper stories relating to the next general election.

Smith, Alastair. British Election Timing Data, 1900-2001. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006-03-30.

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote
National Science Foundation (SES-9975352), Yale University. Leitner Program in International and Comparative Political Economy
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
2000 -- 2001

(1) The Stata files were provided by the principal investigator and have not been processed by ICPSR staff. The ASCII versions of the data and the data definition statements were created by ICPSR. The ASCII data differ slightly from the Stata files for Parts 8 and 10. For these two parts only there was a date variable formatted according to Stata's conventions that ICPSR converted into separate day, month, and year numeric variables for compatibility with other software packages. (2) The codebook is provided by ICPSR as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided on the ICPSR Web site.


All parliamentary elections in Great Britain from 1900 to 2001.

Data for Parts 1-4 were compiled from David Butler and Gareth Butler, BRITISH POLITICAL FACTS, 1900-1994, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. Additional data for Parts 1-3 were obtained from the Nuffield college series THE BRITISH GENERAL ELECTION and the British Parliament's official Web site ( Additional data for Part 4 were gathered from Market & Opinion Research International, Ltd. covering the years from 1994 to 2001. Data for Parts 5 and 6 were collected from the Office of National Statistics via the University of Essex data archive (, the INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL STATISTICS CD-ROM from the International Monetary Fund, and from the Statstore Data Locator ( datasets2.asp). Data for Part 7 were obtained from the International Labour Organization and the OECD's quarterly LABOUR FORCE STATISTICS. Data for Parts 8 and 9 were gathered from Global Financial Data (, Datastream (, and Dow Jones and Company, Inc. ( Data for Part 10 were collected from THE OFFICIAL INDEX TO THE TIMES, 1906-1980, which was available in electronic form from Historical Newspapers Online ( and Lexis/Nexis (

aggregate data, event/transaction data, and survey data



2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Smith, Alastair. British Election Timing Data, 1900-2001. ICPSR03974-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2004.

2006-03-30 File CB3974.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
ICPSR logo

This study is provided by ICPSR. ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for a diverse and expanding social science research community.