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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Central Office - Public Opinion Research Department

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Comprises documents of the Public Opinion Research Department (1948-53), and subsequent papers relating to the commissioning and dissemination of public opinion research in the following areas:
  1. Public opinion summaries
  2. General elections
  3. Advertising
  4. Civil Service
  5. Conservative Party
  6. Correspondence
  7. Defence
  8. Economics, nationalised industries and unemployment
  9. Education
  10. Current affairs
  11. Elections
  12. Energy
  13. Europe
  14. Government record
  15. Greater London Council
  16. Home affairs
  17. Housing
  18. Industrial relations and trade unions
  19. International affairs
  20. Law and order
  21. Local government
  22. Market research
  23. Metrication
  24. The elderly
  25. Political attitudes and issues
  26. Political parties
  27. Republican National Commitee
  28. Scotland
  29. Social services
  30. Transport
  31. Wales
  32. Women
  33. Youth and opinion research
  34. Conservative research department files

Dates

  • 1948-1988, n.d.

Extent

725 shelfmarks

Language of Materials

English.

Conditions Governing Access

General access conditions apply to this material.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Conservative Party Archive [followed by shelfmark, e.g. CCO 180/1/1].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

CCO 180/1-35

Collection ID (for staff)

CPA CCO 180

Overview

Papers of the Public Opinion Research Department, 1948-1953, and other subsequent papers relating to the commissioning and dissemination of public opinion polls, 1953-1988.

Biographical / Historical

A Public Opinion Research Department (PORD) was first established within Conservative Central Office in October 1948 and began work on 1st January 1949. It was disbanded in 1953, but not because the party's interest in the area of opinion research was waning: its essential work was taken over by the Publicity Department. Both before and since 1953, the Party has commissioned and undertaken its own public opinion surveys on many topics including advertising campaigns, attitudes to economic affairs, attitudes to the family, taxation, and nationalized industries, Europe, metrication, party political broadcasts, and images of party leaders. The majority of the commissioned polls were carried out by the Opinion Research Centre, but there are also surveys by the British Institute of Public Opinion, the British Market Research Bureau, Nielson Market Research, and Marplan. Both the PORD and later opinion research records have been catalogued together in this series for ease of reference.

The primary function of the PORD was to follow and provide information on the trends of public opinion, using the results of opinion polls and the reports of missioners for this purpose. The Area Agents were the main source of information gathering and instructions were in place to allow for its transmission to the PORD’s Political Intelligence Centre. An initial subsidiary objective was to watch and report on the activities of other parties, a function which has grown in importance over the years. The most significant part of PORD's work, from February 1949, was the production of the Monthly Summary of Public Opinion (joined from Jan 1952 by the fortnightly summaries) which was continued by the Publicity Department until about 1959. The summaries were based on reports on public opinion received from Area Education Officers and Area Agents in response to questionnaires sent out by Central Office. They were collated by the Chief Publicity Officer and distributed to the Liaison Committee which brought together Party officers, Ministers, MPs and Candidates in a single forum. A 'Confidential Supplement' to the monthly summary contained more sensitive information and had a more restricted circulation. [See series: CCO 180/2/1 for Summaries up to the end of 1952, thereafter series CCO 4 up to 1957].

From June 1963 the work of opinion poll analysis appears to have transferred to the Conservative Research Department which produced summaries based on data from polls commissioned externally – usually NOP (National Opinion Polls) and Gallup. By December 1965, the quantity of opinion poll data arriving at Central Office resulted in the creation of 3 distinct series [see series CCO 180/27/9, below]:
  1. PS/A/1,2,3 etc, consisting of summaries of monthly bulletins of Gallup and NOP polls
  2. PS/B/1,2,3 etc, consisting of brief notes on the polls published in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail
  3. PS/C/1,2,3 etc consisting of summaries of any other special polls
From mid-1966, all opinion survey work for the Party appears to have been transferred to the Opinion Research Centre (ORC), and Monthly Survey meetings were held under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Fraser, Deputy Party Chairman, to determine the content of the opinion survey work to be undertaken by the ORC. From August 1967, the system for producing poll summaries was revised again to reflect this change. Henceforward, all circulated summaries were assigned a unique PS/67/1,2,3, etc internal reference.

As well as producing the regular summaries of public opinion, during general election campaigns PORD was also responsible for producing and disseminating daily intelligence summaries, and reports on reaction to Party Political Broadcasts, as well as following opinion polls published in the Press, and providing election forecasts. This work was similarly taken up by first the Publicity Department and then the Conservative Research Department after the demise of PORD, but most of these Intelligence Reports are to be found elsewhere within the Conservative Party Archive:
  1. 1949-1950: Shelfmark: CCO 4/3/250
  2. 1954-1956: Shelfmark: CCO 4/6/126
  3. 1955: Shelfmark: CRD 2/48/69
  4. 1959: Shelfmark: CCO 500/24/146
  5. 1964: Shelfmarks: CCO 4/9/187 and CCO 500/24/179-184
  6. 1966: Shelfmarks: CCO 4/9/208 and CCO 500/24/237-8
  7. 1970: Shelfmarks: CCO 500/24/286-7
  8. Feb 1974: Shelfmark: CRD 4/30/4/34
  9. Oct 1974: Shelfmark: CRD 4/30/4/57-58
For more information on Opinion Research, see Special Services within the Conservative Research Department series.

Custodial History

The Conservative Party Archive (CPA) was established as a source for academic study at the Bodleian Library in 1978 by an agreement made between the University of Oxford and the Conservative Party, and brought together surviving historic papers of the Party previously held in various locations including Newcastle University Library and the former Conservative Central Office in Smith Square, London. Since 1996, ownership and financial responsibility for the CPA has been vested in the Conservative Party Archive Trust. The CPA preserves the records of all three areas of Party organisation: parliamentary, voluntary and professional. It is recognised by the Conservative Party as the official repository for its historic records and those of affiliated organisations, and receives new material on a regular basis.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Conservative Party.
Title
Conservative Party Archive: Public Opinion Research Department
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Emily Tarrant
Date
2004
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom