One of the UK’s leading authorities on elections and social attitudes, Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, has been knighted in the 2018 New Year Honours List.
Sir John has received his knighthood for services to social sciences and politics, in a career in which he has widely researched and commented upon elections and voting. He successfully combines the scholarly analysis of a distinguished academic with the communication skills of a public educator, gaining an international reputation for providing straightforward explanations of the decisions of voters, the behaviour of parties, and the outcome of elections.
He received particular acclaim for leading exit polls that accurately forecast the outcome of the last four General Elections. Notably, the polls for the 2015 and 2017 elections proved to be correct despite being at odds with widespread expectations.
Sir John’s knighthood is announced weeks after he received the Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2017 Times Higher Education Awards.
Sir John said: “Just six months ago, the exit poll I lead surprised everyone with a shock prediction that went on to be uncannily accurate. Now it is my turn to be surprised – and humbled – by the gracious decision to grant me a knighthood.
“It is not something I ever expected to happen. But it appears that my attempts to analyse public opinion and outline its implications for the country’s political life are appreciated – and exemplify Strathclyde’s vision as a ‘place of useful learning’.”
Sir John grew up in Cornwall and took a keen interest in politics from an early age. After studying at the University of Oxford’s Magdalen and Nuffield Colleges, he began his academic career at the latter before becoming a lecturer at the University of Liverpool, subsequently taking up his current post at Strathclyde in 1989.
He has frequently commented on politics, elections and voting in broadcast, print and online media, including election night coverage, for more than 30 years. In the 2015 General Election, the exit poll that he led correctly forecast that the Conservatives would be the largest party by far, contrary to a general belief that the party was facing close competition from Labour.
In 2017, after earlier forecasts generally agreed the Conservatives would win by an overall majority – potentially in a landslide – the exit poll accurately predicted that, although they would remain the largest party, they would lose their overall majority, leading to a hung parliament. The team that he led was given a Special Recognition Award by the Political Studies Association at its annual awards ceremony earlier this month.
Throughout the 2017 election campaign, Sir John had highlighted that a seven-point lead for David Cameron in the 2015 election converted into the Conservatives having an overall majority of only 12 seats, meaning that his successor, Theresa May, would require a substantially larger lead than this to achieve a landslide.
Sir John has collaborated as Research Consultant for 30 years with Britain’s largest independent social research institute, NatCen/ScotCen Social Research, and as co-editor and director of its annual British and Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, widely regarded as one of the most important public opinion barometers in Britain and Scotland.
Sir John is also President of the British Polling Council and runs two websites. One, What Scotland Thinks, provides comprehensive data and commentary on public attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed in the wake of the independence referendum. The other, What UK Thinks, charts public attitudes towards Brexit following the EU referendum.
Sir John received the Political Studies Association’s Political Science Communication Prize in 2004 and 2015 and the Market Research Society’s Collaborative Research Award in 2010. He holds Fellowships of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Arts and the Academy of Social Sciences, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Statistical Society.
Several Strathclyde alumni also received recognition in the Honours List:
- David Bell, Professor of Economics, University of Stirling – CBE
- Dr David Docherty , CEO, National Centre for Universities & Business – OBE
- Graham Garvie, former Convener, Scottish Borders Council - OBE
- Ian McLauchlan, Director, Scottish Rugby Union – OBE
- Nora Dillon, former teacher and founder member of Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association – MBE
- Alan Hughes, Convener, Glasgow Children’s Panel - MBE
- Robert McPhail, Director, Tarbert and Skipness Community Trust - MBE
- Moira Monaghan, former head teacher – MBE
- Summera Shaheen, owner, Diamond Studio jewellers – MBE.
In addition, Dr Lesley Sawers, Equality and Human Rights Commissioner for Scotland and Strathclyde honorary graduate, became an OBE.