Predicting the polls: a Victorian perspective

Our editor Philip Salmon explains the complexities of Victorian polling.

The History of Parliament

As the UK goes to the polls today, here’s the last in our series of blogs on elections through the centuries. With the outcome of today’s vote still baffling the pollsters, Dr Philip Salmon, Editor of the Victorian Commons, discusses how parties tried to deal with uncertainty before voting was secret…

Victorian electoral print of an elector and candidate

As the UK’s pollsters and pundits vie for coverage in what appears to be a remarkably unpredictable election campaign, it is worth noting how Victorian political parties tried to minimise the uncertainty of going to the polls, using their own very distinct methods.

Victorian politicians enjoyed one major advantage over modern candidates. Because all voting was done in public before 1872, they could easily ascertain how each elector had behaved at a previous poll. Pollbooks listing all the individual votes cast by every elector provided agents with a clear guide to the politics of each constituency…

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