David Butler

Born (1924-10-17) 17 October 1924 (age 97)
Known forPsephology
Spouse(s)Marilyn Butler (died 2014)

Sir David Edgeworth Butler, CBE, FBA (born 17 October 1924) is an English political scientist, with a special interest in elections. He is based in Oxford.

Early life

Butler was educated at St Paul's School and New College, Oxford, and then at Princeton University as a Jane Eliza Procter Visiting Fellow from 1947 to 1948. He returned to Oxford as a researcher and academic at Nuffield College, where he taught throughout the remainder of his academic career.


Between 1956 and 1957, Butler served as personal assistant to HM Ambassador in Washington.[1]

Butler is the author of many publications, but perhaps his most important work is the Nuffield Election Studies of each United Kingdom General Election since 1945. Early co-authors included Richard Rose and Anthony King. From 1974 to 2005, this series was co-authored with Dennis Kavanagh. He was a prominent on-screen expert on the BBC's election night coverage from the 1950 election to the 1979 election, and was a co-inventor of the swingometer. He has since appeared as an electoral analyst on various television and radio programmes, including for ITV on the night of the 1997 general election, and Sky News election night coverage in 2001. He also appeared as a guest on the BBC's coverage of both the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

His book, Political Change in Britain: Forces Shaping Electoral Choice (Macmillan, 1969), written with US political scientist Donald E. Stokes, brought modern American science treatments to the United Kingdom and is regarded as a pioneering analysis of its kind. His Governing Without a Majority: Dilemmas for Hung Parliaments in Britain (Sheridan House, 1986) provides an analysis of the phenomenon of the hung parliament in Britain.

Butler is an Emeritus Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and sits on the editorial board of the academic journal Representation.[2] He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994. He was appointed CBE in the 1991 Birthday Honours and knighted in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to political science.[3] Butler was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex in 1993.[4]

Since 1973, Butler has been involved in founding and organising the Oxford University Australian Politics Lunch, which "has only one rule, you are not allowed to talk about anything except Australian politics."[5] Notable lunch attendees included Kim Beazley.

Personal life

A cousin was the former Conservative politician Rab Butler.[6]

His wife, Professor Marilyn Butler (died March 2014), was a former rector of Exeter College, Oxford, the first woman to head a previously all-male college. They have three sons.


Books on British politics

  • __________, The Electoral System in Britain Since 1918, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963).
  • __________, The Study of Political Behaviour, 2nd ed. (London: Hutchinson, 1959).
  • ___________________________, Political Change in Britain: The Basis of Electoral Choice, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1975).
  • ___________, Governing Without a Majority: Dilemmas for Hung Parliaments in Britain, Second Edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986).
  • ___________, British General Elections Since 1945, Second Edition – ‘Making Contemporary Britain’ Series (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 1995).

Books on international politics

Comparative international studies

Books on American politics

Books on Australian politics

Books on Indian politics

  • _____________________________________________, India Decides: Elections 1952–1991, 2nd ed. (New Delhi: Living Media India, 1991).
  • _____________________________________________, India Decides: Elections 1952–1995, 3rd ed. (New Delhi: Books and Things, 1996).

Nuffield Election Studies

Nuffield Studies: British General Elections

(Only the volumes edited or co-edited by Butler are listed here; the first two volumes, for the elections of 1945 and 1950, had Butler as a contributor, but were edited by others; since 2010, the series has been edited by others.)

Nuffield Study: 1975 EEC Referendum

Nuffield Studies: European Elections

(No book on the 1989 European elections was produced, due to Butler being in America for much of the early part of 1989. Unlike the 'British General Election' series, which had Editors before and after Butler, the European election series started with Butler, and was not continued thereafter, beyond the volume on the 2004 election.)

British Political Facts series

(Subsequent editions since the 11th edition in 2018 have been edited by Roger Mortimore and Andrew Blick, and have been renamed ‘Butler’s British Political Facts.’)

American Enterprise Institute At the Polls comparative studies series

(Please note that only the volumes co-edited by Butler are listed here.)

Book chapters

  • ____________, ‘By-Elections and Their Interpretation’, in Chris Cook and John Ramsden (eds), By-Elections in British Politics: Revised Second Edition (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 1–12.

(Butler also anonymously wrote various analytical chapters of the ‘Times Guide to the House of Commons’ series from the 1960s to the 1980s.)

Peer-reviewed articles

(Butler was also the founding co-Editor of the peer-reviewed academic journal 'Electoral Studies', from 1982 to 1992.)

Books on Butler


  1. ^ Who's Who 1987, page 257
  2. ^ "Representation". editorial board. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  3. ^ "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 1.
  4. ^ "University of Essex :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates". www.essex.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  5. ^ "Election pioneer calls it a day". 2010-06-11.
  6. ^ "Great Thinkers: John Curtice FBA on David Butler FBA". 2019-06-24.