Anton Sylvest Lilleør: "Political representation and statistical representativeness in post-war Denmark”

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausing Room)
  • Lecturer: Anton Sylvest Lilleør
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Frans Lundgren
  • Seminarium

Higher Seminar in the History of Science and Ideas

Anton Sylvest Lilleør, Copenhagen University

Chair: Frans Lundgren


Opinion polling was introduced in Denmark around the second world war, claiming to represent the voice of the people through scientific methods. The technology popularized a new conception of representation as statistical representativeness, which diverged from the dominant idea of representation through elections and political parties. The paper unfolds this new representative claim of the polling technology and the ways in which it expanded and altered the representative infrastructure of post-war Denmark. It argues that, through the conception of representation as statistical representativeness, opinion polling and later also electoral research challenged the representative monopoly of elections and political parties by constructing new kinds of scientized representations of the electorate. Throughout the post-war period, the reliability and authority of such representations were subject to ongoing negotiation. While they were generally endorsed by the media as well as by the pollsters and electoral researchers themselves, they were met with skepticism by the political parties.Only from the 1960s onwards was opinion polling gradually integrated into the party institution as the political parties began to consider their electorates and their role as representatives through the lens of opinion polls and electoral research. This integration also prompted a transformation within the political parties towards increased professionalization and marketization.