How pollster John Curtice became Twitter's election idol

Cult hero of the 2017 general election says he's 'just doing his job'

John Curtice
John CurticeAt 10.50 on 8 June, just fifty minutes after an exit poll revealed the shock prediction that Theresa May could lose her parliamentary majority, the poll’s author, John Curtice, appeared on a balcony above the BBC’s election night studio. As
(Image credit: BBC)

For fans of British politics, the initials JC don't just stand for the Labour leader – they stand for John Curtice.

If the name sounds familiar, that's because the 63-year-old professor of politics at Strathclyde University has become something of a household name during the election campaign.

Curtice is one of Britain's leading psephologists, and for many political commentators his word is tantamount to gospel.

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The word psephology, used to describe the study of polls, was coined just one year before Curtice was born, and for the past 40 years the Cornish academic has eaten, slept and breathed it.

In recent weeks, however, Curtice has unwittingly embarked on a second career, says the New Statesman, as a "cult hero" on social media.

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Fans even swap their favourite trivia about their unlikely idol.

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A dedicated @johncurticeontv account keeps fans posted on the latest Curtice sightings, whether he's being interviewed by the BBC or simply "in the background of spin rooms and television studios looking 'in the know'", says Holyrood magazine.

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What makes Curtice so popular?

First, he's extremely good at his job. As one of Britain's foremost psephologists, Curtice serves as president of the British Polling Council, which counts YouGov, Ipsos Mori and ComRes among its members.

In 2015, he was one of the few analysts to defy the mainstream consensus that the election would produce a hung parliament, correctly predicting a Conservative majority.

This time around, he's making the same prediction, although he says that talk of a Conservative landslide may be premature.

"The difficulty that faces the Tories is that there aren't that many marginal seats kicking around, so getting a landslide does require very big leads," he says.

In a political landscape of partisan squabbles and mudslinging, Curtice's 'just the facts' analysis brings a refreshing objectivity to the conversation.

Even amid the excitement of election night, Curtice never lets his mask of neutrality slip to reveal his own political leanings.

But it's his unselfconscious eccentricity that makes him so irresistible to his online following. One of the most shared photos shows him dressed as Batman for a fundraising event.

At a glance Curtice comes off as "a caricature of a dotty professor," says Holyrood, rarely without "a battered and bulging briefcase, a variety of plastic bags stuffed with papers and often a floral insulated lunch box".

The broadcast veteran, who has helped cover every election since 1979, seems unperturbed by his newfound fame. "I just do my job," he told the New Statesman.

"I've done this stuff for many years, it's great fun, but I've got no wish to become a media celebrity," he says, adding that he took his social media stardom "phlegmatically".

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