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Before heading the online opinion research firm Peter consulted for the Foreign Office, set up the Bank of England’s inflation surveys and reported for Newsnight. He continues to monitor public sentiment and voting patterns through elections and referenda. As well as examining the pros and cones of measuring opinions, he considers that if a politician were to ask a pollster two questions: ‘How should we run the country?’ and ‘How do we win the next election?’ it would sadly elicit two very different answers.
Peter Kellner is best known as President of YouGov, the pioneering online polling and market research company. Engaged in the early days of the company as Chairman, he has responsibility for all media and political surveys and methodology in Britain, the Middle East and United States.
In elections where YouGov has predicted the final outcome, its average error is just 1%. They said Boris Johnson would be elected Mayor of London by 6 percentage points, which turned out to be the precise result. Their accuracy might be due to the fact that YouGov conducts surveys online; in the absence of an interviewer it’s felt people may be more inclined to be honest.
Peter started as a business and investigative columnist on The Sunday Times. He went on to become Political Editor of the New Statesman and a regular pundit on Newsnight, Channel 4’s Powerhouse and countless election programmes. He also set up the Bank of England’s quarterly inflation surveys, advised the Foreign Office on attitudes to Europe and acted as consultant for NatWest, the Corporation of London, and the TUC.
Despite apparently unprecedented levels of discontent, Peter believes the public’s faith in parliament will gradually return. But he doesn’t support the popular view that referenda add to the democratic process. As he explains in presentations, any referendum has to pose a black and white question – which inevitably produces an extreme result. Real political decision making is much more subtle and always involves trade-offs.
As an author Peter’s books include Democracy: The 1,000 year struggle for British liberty. A former Journalist of the Year, he still writes for a variety of newspapers. Other roles have included visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, and the Institute for Policy Studies, and Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society. He is married to Baroness Ashton, the former Labour minister, European Commissioner and EU Foreign Minister.
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