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FAQS

General

The British Election Study Team principal investigators are Professors Ed Fieldhouse (Manchester), Jane Green (Manchester), Geoff Evans (Nuffield College, Oxford), Hermann Schmitt (Manchester) and Cees Van Der Eijk (Nottingham).

Jonathan Mellon (Nuffield College, Oxford) is a postdoctoral research fellows and Professor John Curtice (Strathclyde) is BES consultant.

Rachel Gibson (Manchester) is leading on the iBES (internet BES) project assisted by Marta Cantijoch (Manchester).

The BES project is extensively supported by the Universities of Manchester, Oxford and Nottingham, where all three institutions have teams of electoral researchers who are commonly affiliated to the BES.

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We have launched our innovative Data Playground which will allow you to look at BES data and create your own charts, allowing you to look at answers to questions and their relationships without having to have any specialist software.

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Historical BES data can be downloaded on this website (Data page)

Users may also find the http://www.besis.org website useful.

Ethnic Minority British Electoral Surveys (EMBES) can be accessed here:

http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/research/embes-the-ethnic-minority-british-election-study.html

 

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The responsible variables all refer to the following grid:

accountability grid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respondents are asked to tick each of the parties that are responsible for changes that they identified in the previous questions.

Since respondents can tick as many people as being responsible as they wish, there is a separate variable for each tick box.

So, responsibleNHS_1 equals 1 if a respondent says that the Conservatives are responsible for changes in the NHS and 0  if not. Similarly, responsibleCrime_3 equals 1 if the respondent thinks that the previous Labour government is responsible for changes in the crime rate and 0 if the respondent thinks they are not responsible.

The party contact and priorities questions both work with similar grids that ask respondents to tick all the combinations that apply to them (parties contacting by each method and parties prioritising each issue, respectively).

 

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A few reasons:

  • We only have 25 minutes to ask respondents questions and this inevitably means we can’t ask respondents everything we’d like to
  • We’re focused primarily on respondent’s electoral behaviour. Some questions would be better suited to other surveys.
  • We’re always open to feedback. You can comment on our approach at [email protected]

 

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Variables

The dataset includes the following variables near the start:

ordering pidfront vtfront getsBrandenburg getsEUTT getsHuddy getsOldHandling getsPTV getsRedistTT getsTT playground condition pledgeRand eduChoice

 

These variables track which questions were given to which respondents.

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Not applicable and missing values (due to skipping or routing) are coded as missing (. in stata or NA in R).

 

Don’t know values are coded to 9999 in the dataset and labelled as “don’t know”.

 

This means that it is very important to recode “don’t know” values before analysing scales. We chose a deliberately high “don’t know” value so that any diagnostics will immediately pick up on the outlying value.

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The responsible variables all refer to the following grid:

accountability grid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respondents are asked to tick each of the parties that are responsible for changes that they identified in the previous questions.

Since respondents can tick as many people as being responsible as they wish, there is a separate variable for each tick box.

So, responsibleNHS_1 equals 1 if a respondent says that the Conservatives are responsible for changes in the NHS and 0  if not. Similarly, responsibleCrime_3 equals 1 if the respondent thinks that the previous Labour government is responsible for changes in the crime rate and 0 if the respondent thinks they are not responsible.

The party contact and priorities questions both work with similar grids that ask respondents to tick all the combinations that apply to them (parties contacting by each method and parties prioritising each issue, respectively).

 

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Several reasons:

  • YouGov’s existing data on panellists
  • Data from the electoral commission (in future)
  • Linked data sources

The BES includes much of the information that YouGov routinely collects about all members of their panel.

  • Age
  • Highest qualification
  • Home ownership
  • Marital status
  • Age left education
  • Ethnicity
  • Local authority and education authority
  • Household income
  • Personal income
  • Household size
  • Number of children in household
  • Preferred daily newspaper
  • Vote choice in 2010
  • Religiosity
  • Religious denomination
  • Type of organization worked for
  • Big 5 personality measures
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  • Age
  • National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC)
  • Parent’s NS-SEC
  • Highest educational qualification
  • Home ownership
  • Marital status
  • Age left education
  • Ethnicity
  • Local authority and education authority
  • Household income
  • Personal income
  • Household size
  • Number of children in household
  • Preferred daily newspaper
  • Religiosity
  • Religious denomination
  • Type of organization worked for
  • Attending a private primary or secondary school
  • Big 5 personality measures
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We ask respondents about their views of coalitions in general by asking how much they agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • It is more difficult to know who to blame when parties govern in coalition
  • Coalition governments are more effective than single party governments
  • Coalition governments are more in tune with the public than governments formed of one party
  • Parties cannot deliver on their promises when they govern in coalition

 

In addition, the British Election Study also asks about how respondents assign blame between the coalition partners. We ask about who is responsible for the following issues:

  • the size of Britain’s national debt
  • the economy
  • the NHS
  • education
  • the cost of living
  • immigration
  • crime

 

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We ask about the European parliament elections, where voters think the parties stand on Europe, how certain they are about parties’ positions, satisfaction with European democracy and whether they would vote to leave the EU in a referendum.

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It is well documented that survey respondents often like to give answers that will make them look better. For instance, surveys almost always show a higher proportion of people who claim to have voted in the last election than actually did. This is a problem if we want to understand why people vote. We might just be predicting who will claim to have voted.

 

Social desirability measures are questions that almost certainly don’t apply to anyone but do sound like desirable statements.

We asked respondents to tick which (if any) of these statements applied to them (adapted from http://ejop.psychopen.eu/article/view/417/315):

  • I always practice what I preach
  • If I say to people that  I will do something, I always keep my promise no matter what
  • I would never lie to people
  • I always smile at people every time I meet them

The more of these, a respondent ticks, the more likely it is that they are giving answers to make themselves appear good.

 

 

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This information is recorded and we are planning to release a supplementary dataset containing this information.

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The Moreno scale for Britishness and Scottishness asked respondents whether they felt more British than Scottish.

Our national identity scales instead ask Scottish respondents to place themselves on a 7 point Britishness, Scottishness and Englishness scale. This allows a comparison of more than two identities and preliminary analysis of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey suggested that the two variables separately were better at predicting referendum intention than the Moreno scale.

We also felt that being able to look at the extent to which nation’s identities are felt to be more compatible with Britishness than others.

The Moreno scale for Britishness and Scottishness asks respondents whether they felt more British than Scottish.

Our national identity scales instead ask Scottish respondents to place themselves on a 7 point Britishness, Scottishness and Englishness scale. This allows a comparison of more than two identities and preliminary analysis of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey suggested that the two variables separately were better at predicting referendum intention than the Moreno scale.

We also felt that being able to look at the extent to which nation’s identities are felt to be more compatible with Britishness than others.

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We used automatic text analysis based on previous British Election Study surveys to automatically code the open ended most important issue responses for wave 1 in the variable miilabel. A second variable miilabel certainty includes the probability that the statistical model assigned to the chosen category. We suggest not relying on MII categories coded with a low level of certainty.

We will release a blogpost describing the text coding process and including the R code used that will allow anyone to choose a different approach for the coding if they prefer.

This automatic coding will be updated with manual coding of the text after the BES team decide on a new coding schema for the most important issue question.

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In order to allow the community to begin using the British Election Study data as soon as possible, we have released the data without some of the eventual features we intend to implement. These include:

  • Full coding for occupations: the occupation question was asked in an open ended format and is currently being manually classified.
  • Manual coding for the most important issue question: the MII question is open ended. The BES team intends to work on a unified schema for the MII question in the new data as well to some of the older surveys. In the meantime we have released automatic issue codings by using machine learning on the older surveys.
  • Data linking: the British Election Study intends to merge in data from several other sources including candidate studies and census area statistics to allow for a fuller picture of an individual voter’s context.
  • Constituency characteristics: marginality, past vote share, candidates (note that parliamentary constituency is already included as a variable in the current release)
  • Question orderings: the order of questions and rows was sometimes randomized within the survey. This information will be made available as a supplemental file in future.
  • Question timings: the amount of time a respondent spent on each page was also recorded by YouGov, we also intend to make this available as a supplemental file in future.

In addition, the British Election Study data is currently in an early version so users are encouraged to check their variables carefully and report any problems they find.

 

 

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YouGov routinely collects the postcodes of all its panel members. The British Election Study panel respondents are then coded into various geographies based on these postcodes. We will be releasing data at several geographic levels (including parliamentary constituency and lower geographic levels) in later releases.

In the first release we include variables for three levels of political geography: pcon is the respondent’s 2010 Parliamentary Constituency, profile_lea is their Local Education Authority and profile_oslaua is the Local Authority. Users can merge in any external data they have recorded at these geographies.

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Yes. It is important to use the relevant weights in order to ensure the sample is representative of the general population, which takes into account the way the survey company generates the sample and the over-sampling of Scottish respondents in the online survey (for example).

Using SPSS: go to ‘Data’ in the menu, ‘Weight Cases’, then select ‘Weight cases by’ and select the weight variable from the left-hand variable list and click ‘ok’. The weighting will be shown as ‘Weight on’ in the bottom right hand corner of the Data Editor screen.

Using STATA: after your stata command include [iweight=W8_2].

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Analysing BES data

We have launched our innovative Data Playground which will allow you to look at BES data and create your own charts, allowing you to look at answers to questions and their relationships without having to have any specialist software.

0 Comments - Leave a Comment

The dataset includes the following variables near the start:

ordering pidfront vtfront getsBrandenburg getsEUTT getsHuddy getsOldHandling getsPTV getsRedistTT getsTT playground condition pledgeRand eduChoice

 

These variables track which questions were given to which respondents.

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Not applicable and missing values (due to skipping or routing) are coded as missing (. in stata or NA in R).

 

Don’t know values are coded to 9999 in the dataset and labelled as “don’t know”.

 

This means that it is very important to recode “don’t know” values before analysing scales. We chose a deliberately high “don’t know” value so that any diagnostics will immediately pick up on the outlying value.

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Yes. It is important to use the relevant weights in order to ensure the sample is representative of the general population, which takes into account the way the survey company generates the sample and the over-sampling of Scottish respondents in the online survey (for example).

Using SPSS: go to ‘Data’ in the menu, ‘Weight Cases’, then select ‘Weight cases by’ and select the weight variable from the left-hand variable list and click ‘ok’. The weighting will be shown as ‘Weight on’ in the bottom right hand corner of the Data Editor screen.

Using STATA: after your stata command include [iweight=W8_2].

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About the BES data

A panel study is a survey that tracks the same people over time. Respondents are asked some of the same questions over multiple waves in order to see how their views evolve over time. For much more information, see the wikipedia page on panel/cohort studies.

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A few reasons:

  • We only have 25 minutes to ask respondents questions and this inevitably means we can’t ask respondents everything we’d like to
  • We’re focused primarily on respondent’s electoral behaviour. Some questions would be better suited to other surveys.
  • We’re always open to feedback. You can comment on our approach at [email protected]

 

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The BES internet panel data is collected by YouGov using an online sample of YouGov panel members.

The 2015 BES will also conduct a face-to-face survey using a representative sample of the general population. This survey will be conducted by a fieldwork agency in 2015. The competitive tender process for that appointment is underway.

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Technical

The dataset includes the following variables near the start:

ordering pidfront vtfront getsBrandenburg getsEUTT getsHuddy getsOldHandling getsPTV getsRedistTT getsTT playground condition pledgeRand eduChoice

 

These variables track which questions were given to which respondents.

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Not applicable and missing values (due to skipping or routing) are coded as missing (. in stata or NA in R).

 

Don’t know values are coded to 9999 in the dataset and labelled as “don’t know”.

 

This means that it is very important to recode “don’t know” values before analysing scales. We chose a deliberately high “don’t know” value so that any diagnostics will immediately pick up on the outlying value.

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We name variables in the dataset using descriptive names in camel case. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/x2dbyw72(v=vs.71).aspx

Naming variables descriptively helps to make analysis code more readable than naming variables by their question number. Question numbering is also less practical in a panel study, where a particular variable may change its position across waves.

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This information is recorded and we are planning to release a supplementary dataset containing this information.

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These questions are ordered randomly at either the start or end of the survey. This is in order to look at how their placement affects their relationship to each other and the other variables in the survey.

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The Moreno scale for Britishness and Scottishness asked respondents whether they felt more British than Scottish.

Our national identity scales instead ask Scottish respondents to place themselves on a 7 point Britishness, Scottishness and Englishness scale. This allows a comparison of more than two identities and preliminary analysis of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey suggested that the two variables separately were better at predicting referendum intention than the Moreno scale.

We also felt that being able to look at the extent to which nation’s identities are felt to be more compatible with Britishness than others.

The Moreno scale for Britishness and Scottishness asks respondents whether they felt more British than Scottish.

Our national identity scales instead ask Scottish respondents to place themselves on a 7 point Britishness, Scottishness and Englishness scale. This allows a comparison of more than two identities and preliminary analysis of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey suggested that the two variables separately were better at predicting referendum intention than the Moreno scale.

We also felt that being able to look at the extent to which nation’s identities are felt to be more compatible with Britishness than others.

0 Comments - Leave a Comment

We used automatic text analysis based on previous British Election Study surveys to automatically code the open ended most important issue responses for wave 1 in the variable miilabel. A second variable miilabel certainty includes the probability that the statistical model assigned to the chosen category. We suggest not relying on MII categories coded with a low level of certainty.

We will release a blogpost describing the text coding process and including the R code used that will allow anyone to choose a different approach for the coding if they prefer.

This automatic coding will be updated with manual coding of the text after the BES team decide on a new coding schema for the most important issue question.

0 Comments - Leave a Comment

In order to allow the community to begin using the British Election Study data as soon as possible, we have released the data without some of the eventual features we intend to implement. These include:

  • Full coding for occupations: the occupation question was asked in an open ended format and is currently being manually classified.
  • Manual coding for the most important issue question: the MII question is open ended. The BES team intends to work on a unified schema for the MII question in the new data as well to some of the older surveys. In the meantime we have released automatic issue codings by using machine learning on the older surveys.
  • Data linking: the British Election Study intends to merge in data from several other sources including candidate studies and census area statistics to allow for a fuller picture of an individual voter’s context.
  • Constituency characteristics: marginality, past vote share, candidates (note that parliamentary constituency is already included as a variable in the current release)
  • Question orderings: the order of questions and rows was sometimes randomized within the survey. This information will be made available as a supplemental file in future.
  • Question timings: the amount of time a respondent spent on each page was also recorded by YouGov, we also intend to make this available as a supplemental file in future.

In addition, the British Election Study data is currently in an early version so users are encouraged to check their variables carefully and report any problems they find.

 

 

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In addition to the normal sample there are also an additional 9709 respondents interviewed by YouGov outside of the specified design. These are available from the British Election Study team ([email protected]) on request but should be used with caution as the maximum weight in this sample is greater than 20.

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Questionnaire Proposals

The playground contains items that are only asked to subsets of respondents.

Because of the number of questions asked to Scottish and Welsh respondents, these questions were only asked to English respondents.

In wave 1 these questions were primarily suggested by the community of academic users. After reviewing 24 proposals for user content, the British Election Study team and advisory board approved three user proposals for inclusion in wave 1.

These proposals were:

  • Citizens’ evaluations of the fulfilment of election pledges (Heinz Brandenburg and Robert Thomson)
  • Voter Uncertainty About Party Policy Positions (Zeynep Somer-Topcu and Margit Tavits)
  • A Social Identity Approach to Partisanship (Leonie Huddy and Alex Bankert)
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The British Election Study Team is pleased to invite members of the BES user community to submit applications to include custom designed content to future waves of the BES Internet Panel Study. The dates of the waves are set out below.

Wave 1. February 2014

Wave 2. May 2014 Local and European elections

Wave 3. September 2014 Scottish independence referendum

Wave 4. General election 2015 Pre-campaign-post waves

Wave 5. May 2016 Local, Welsh and Scottish elections

Wave 6. May 2017 Local elections

Eligibility

This invitation is open to all BES users including those working in overseas institutions. User designed content may include, but is not limited to, survey experiments, and may also include (for example) short batteries of items asked in other surveys.

Criteria

The process will be competitive, and all applications will be judged by the BES leadership team and the BES Advisory Board against a number of criteria.

Application process

Applications should be no longer than 2 pages (A4, font size 12) not including the questions or instruments which may be appended separately. Applications should set out the justification for inclusion in the BESIP, bearing in mind the criteria set out above. All proposals MUST include full details of the actuals questions or experiments (including wording and response categories), rather than examples of possible instruments.

Submissions should clearly indicate at which wave(s) the items should be included.

There is no single competition or deadline for proposals for wave 3 onwards, but rather proposals will be considered on their own merit when they are received. All proposals must be received AT LEAST 4 MONTHS in advance of the wave in which they are to first appear. This is to allow adequate time for the board to consider proposals, for the team to work with the proposer and with YouGov to finalise and test the instruments.

A decision will normally be made within two months of submission.

Further details on eligibility, criteria and the application process can be found here

Submit your proposal here

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