Opinion polls did not foresee the result of the general election. What is the history of this form of fortune telling? See below...
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A Personal Note (Archive)
May 10, 2015
So the election is done, and one of the most remarkable things about it was the way no one realised what would happen until the last moment. All the polls except the exit poll indicated a virtual dead heat between Labour and the Conservatives.
Polling in its earliest days was very simple. The first known opinion poll was organised by the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian in 1824 amongst its readers. Local opinion happened to reflect the national mood, and the Pennsylvanian correctly predicted that Andrew Jackson would defeat John Qunicy Adams in 1824s presidential race. In 1916, as a publicity exercise the Literary Digest mailed out millions of post cards to its readers asking what they would do in the presidential election that year. In this way the Digest correctly called the victory of Woodrow Wilson, and continued this success with correct predictions for Warren Harding in 1920, Calvin Coolidge in 1924, Herbert Hoover in 1928 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Until this point the readership of the Digest seemed to reflect national opinion. But then in 1936 things went badly wrong, when a built-in Republican bias amongst the Literary Digest's relatively prosperous readership led to an incorrect prediction that Alf Landon would beat Roosevelt. After this, the Literary Digest went out of business and polling became more sophisticated. Today polling gives very detailed attention to bias, but even now it is not always easy to find a small group of people which typifies the opinion of everyone.
Historical news for May
2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. His former home of Chartwell, now a National Trust property, is marking the event with a special exhibition. The exhibition displays personal items and documents which have rarerly been seen in public before. The exhibition runs 25th April - 25th July 2015.
An exhibition of salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography, is currently being staged at the Tate Britain. Dating back to 1839, the fragility of these prints means very few survive, making this a rare opportunity to experience some of the world's earliest photography. The event runs 25th February - 27th June 2015. For more details go to http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/salt-and-silver-early-photography-1840
Meanwhile in Bradford, at the National Media Museum, the world's oldest photographic society, the Royal Photographic Society will be displaying 200 of its most historic images. The exhibition begins on 20th March, and runs until 21st June 2015. For more information go to http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/planavisit/exhibitions/drawn-by-light/about
Anniversaries for May
5th May 1980: The SAS storm the Iranian Embassy in London, where a group of six men wanting independence for the Khuzestan Province of Iran, are holding hostages.
9th May 1958: Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo has its world premiere in San Francisco. It was the first film to use a technique known as the "dolly zoom" which creates a sense of disorientation.
15th May 1940: Richard and Maurice McDonald open a restuarant, called McDonalds, in San Bernadino, California. They built their fast food service on principles established by the White Castle hamburger chain, in the 1920s.
18th May 1980: Mount St Helens erupts in Washington State. Lakes near the volcano were party covered with felled trees for thirty years after the disaster.
21st May 1932: Amelia Earhart lands in a field in Derry, Northern Ireland, and becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
22nd May 1807: The Devonshire village of Chudleigh is destroyed by fire. During the 1980s J.K. Rowling studied French at university at Exeter, and referenced Chudleigh in the Harry Potter books she went on to write. The Chudley Canons are one of thirteen quidditch teams to play in the British league.
26th May 1897: Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is published by Archibald Constable and Company.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Derick Fusco, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.