"Swingometer" inventor David Butler, dies aged 98

"Swingometer" inventor David Butler, dies aged 98

Postby dutchman » Wed Nov 09, 2022 6:34 pm

Sir David Butler, a trailblazing former BBC election analyst who pioneered exit polls and the concept of vote swing, has died at the age of 98

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The polling maestro was hailed as "the father of election science" by his friend and biographer, Michael Crick.

Sir David was a staple of the BBC's election night coverage for decades, analysing results on air from 1950 to 1979.

He co-invented the swingometer, a graphics device used to show the shift of votes from one party to another.

He dubbed his craft "psephology", based on the Greek word "psephos" for pebble, which the ancient Greeks used to vote in elections.

Tributes have been paid by his admirers, including pollster Anthony Wells, who said being able to talk to Sir David was like "a physicist getting to meet Newton".

BBC News and Current Affairs chief executive Deborah Turness said Sir David had "played a hugely important role in the development and modernising of the BBC's election coverage", adding that generations of audiences "looked to him for clear analysis and commentary".

Sir David's first love was cricket, especially working out the batting and bowling averages. But when the County Championship was suspended during World War Two, he found himself twiddling his thumbs.

To pass the time, he tried applying the same mathematical rigour to his other passion: election results.

Today, every opinion poll and vote is picked over and analysed but until Butler idly began turning raw election results into percentages, it had not occurred to anyone that it might be worthwhile.

A new academic discipline was born out of boredom, its 21-year-old father still barely old enough to vote.

:bbc_news:
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