POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Push polling

Push polling is a controversial form of negative campaigning in which pseudo opinion polls are used to influence the views and beliefs of voters. Whereas ordinary opinion polls are used to help politicians and parties gain a greater understanding of the views of the electorate, push polls use loaded questions to actively influence the views of the electorate, usually through attempting to discredit opposition candidates. Politicians and parties undertaking push polls, therefore, have no interest in compiling or analyzing the results of voters’ responses to the questions asked, which is a practice crucial to conducting effective opinion polls.

The use of loaded questions in push polls allows politicians or parties to “push” voters in the direction of a particular point of view. In their most innocuous form, push polls can aim simply to remind the electorate about a certain issue. However, at their worst, push polls are used to spread politically damaging rumours which have no basis in fact. For example, when Richard Nixon, one of the earliest adopters of push polling as a campaign tactic, was running for the House of Representatives in 1946, Democratic party voters in his constituency received anonymous phone calls wrongly suggesting his opponent was a communist:

"This is a friend of yours, but I can't tell you who I am. Did you know that Jerry Voorhis is a communist?"


See also: Election Campaign, Elections, Online Poll

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