UK Referendum Survey Experiments

Funded by a small grant from the British Academy and further funding from the McDougall Trust


Principal Researchers: Professor Jack Vowles, Professor Jeffrey Karp


Associates: Associate Professor Dan Stevens, Dr. Sara Hobolt (Oxford), Professor Todd Donovan (Western Washington), Professor Shaun Bowler (University of California Riverside).


The May 5 referendum asked Britons to choose between different ways of electing their MPs. Using surveys of people eligible to vote, our research asked: how effective are referendums on such matters in assessing what people really want? How interested and informed can ordinary people be on such matters? How will people respond to what politicians may have to say?  Did the experience of coalition government in Britain make it more or less likely that people would support a change to AV? This referendum provided a great opportunity for probing more deeply into how people feel about how their MPs are elected, and the reasons why they might or might not want change.


Our method uses survey experiments on three waves of a panel obtained from an independent field services provider, Consumer Fieldwork. (http://www.consumerfieldwork.com/), using a web survey interface provided by Qualtrics (http://www.qualtrics.com/).


Our sample is not a close representation of British voters, but provides a foundation from which to track what affects changes in the opinions and intentions in our panel over the period of the campaign and referendum, and within which we have mounted survey experiments that prompt different sets of respondents in different ways.


The first baseline wave of our panel was in the field between March 4 and March 9. The second wave was in the field from April 25 to May 2, and the third wave from May 7-9.


The data is now available and can be downloaded for others to analyze in either spss or stata.

This dataset has been used in one book and two articles in a Special Issue on the UK Electoral Referendum in Electoral Studies.

Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan, 2013. The Limits of Electoral Reform. Oxford, Oxford University Press, chapter 2.

Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan, 2013.  Civic duty and turnout in the UK referendum on AV: what shapes the duty to vote?

Jack Vowles, 2013. Campaign claims, partisan cues, and media effects in the 2011 British Electoral System Referendum

A Stata do-file to replicate the models in this article is available here.

Wave 1 questionnaire

Wave 2 questionnaire

Wave 3 questionnaire

Acknowledgements: Thanks are due for assistance from Christian Brieskorn (Consumer Fieldwork), Paul Wilder (McDougall Trust) and Chris Adams (Qualtrics).