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Push polling

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Push polling is a public-opinion survey technique, typically conducted by telephone, used to influence voters by asking specific questions about an issue or a candidate. Under the guise of an objective opinion poll, loaded questions are posed to mislead or bias the listener against an opposing candidate or political party.[1] The American Association for Public Opinion Research has condemned push polling as unethical and misleading.[2]

Unlike other opinion polls, information is not collected and analyzed following the completion of a push poll. Rather, the purpose is to persuade the listener to vote against an opposing candidate by providing negative information, which may or may not be accurate.[3]

Identifying a push poll

Not all surveys containing negative information are push polls. Political parties may conduct surveys containing negative information to test whether certain campaigns messages or advertisements will be effective. A respondent may be receiving a push poll if the survey contains the following characteristics:[2]

  • The interviewer does not clearly identify the call center making calls at the beginning of the interview;
  • The interview only contains a few questions;
  • The interviewer only asks questions about one candidate or one side of an issue; or
  • The interviewer does not ask the respondent to provide demographic information such as age, education level or party identification.


In the special election for the open U.S. House seat with the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (D) challenged former Gov. Mark Sanford (R). Prior to the election, South Carolina voters received calls from an unknown polling group asking questions such as, "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?” As abortion is a sensitive issue in conservative South Carolina, the question was used as an attempt to discredit Colbert-Busch by insinuating that the she had terminated a pregnancy[4]

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms