chapter  5
16 Pages

Electoral research, pollsters, and the performative power of information about the ‘public’

The Netherlands and the transatlantic connection (1945–1990)
WithWim de Jong, Fons Meijer

The dawn of mass democracy at the end of the nineteenth century slowly made Western European politicians, journalists, and commercial actors realize that adequate information about voters was critical to democracy as well as electoral strategy. When the democratic electorate is perceived as a semi-autonomous force, no longer mainly a deferential but an active agent in shaping the polity, information about its opinions becomes essential to understanding political reality. Experts from that point on become crucial to the political history of information. A fertile terrain of historical research that has developed is the so-called ‘scientization of the social’, a concept coined by German social historian Lutz Raphael. An important juncture is the 1960s, which hailed the age of the ‘mediated expert’. After the Second World War, political science was instituted in Western Europe. In the Netherlands it originated among others from the field of constitutional law, for which it became a competitor as an explainer of politics.