David Butler (psephologist)

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Sir David Edgeworth Butler CBE (born 17 October 1924) is an English social scientist and psephologist, based in Oxford.

Early life

Butler was educated at St Paul's School and New College, Oxford, and then at Princeton University 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 1956-57, he 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.

David Butler's Political Change in Britain: Forces Shaping Electoral Choice (Macmillan, 1969), written with US political scientist Donald 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.

He 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 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.[citation needed]

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." [4] Notable lunch attendees included Kim Beazley.

Personal life

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:

  • Daniel Richard Butler (1963) who has two children with Bel Crewe (1965); Jack Badger(1994) and Molly Megan (1997).
  • Gareth Edgeworth Butler (1965-2008) who has two children with Lucy Anderson; Joel Anderson (1994) and Sacha Butler (1996).
  • Edmund Edgeworth Butler (1967) who has three children with Anna Korycinska; Staś (1996), Misia (1999) and Zosia (2000).


External links