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Push poll

Push poll

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A push poll is a political campaign
Political campaign
A political campaign is an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group. In democracies, political campaigns often refer to electoral campaigns, wherein representatives are chosen or referendums are decided...

 technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll
Opinion poll
An opinion poll, sometimes simply referred to as a poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence...

. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing
Telemarketing
Telemarketing is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face or Web conferencing appointment scheduled during the call.Telemarketing can also include recorded sales pitches...

-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll. Push polls may rely on innuendo
Innuendo
An innuendo is a baseless invention of thoughts or ideas. It can also be a remark or question, typically disparaging , that works obliquely by allusion...

 or knowledge gleaned from opposition research
Opposition research
Opposition research is:# The term used to classify and describe efforts of supporters or paid consultants of a political candidate to legally investigate the biographical, legal or criminal, medical, educational, financial, public and private administrative and or voting records of the opposing...

 on an opponent. They are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning
Negative campaigning
Negative campaigning, also known more colloquially as "mudslinging", is trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent or of a policy rather than emphasizing one's own positive attributes or preferred policies...

. The term is also sometimes used inaccurately to refer to legitimate polls which test political messages, some of which may be negative. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants
American Association of Political Consultants
The American Association of Political Consultants is the trade group for the political consulting profession in the United States. Founded in 1969, it is the world's largest organization of political consultants, public affairs professionals and communications specialists...

, and is illegal in New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

.

Forms of push polls


The mildest forms of push polling are designed merely to remind voters of a particular issue. For instance, a push poll might ask respondents to rank candidates based on their support of an issue in order to get voters thinking about that issue.

Many push polls are negative attacks on other candidates. These attacks often contain information with little or no basis in fact. They will ask questions such as "If you knew that Candidate Smith was being investigated for corruption, would you be more likely to vote for him, or less likely?" The question doesn't state that any investigation has taken place, so it is not a lie, but it serves to imply that Candidate Smith is corrupt.

One way to distinguish between push polling as a tactic and polls which legitimately seek information is the sample size. Genuine polls make do with small, representative samples, whereas push polls can be very large, like any other mass marketing effort.

True push polls tend to be very short, with only a handful of questions, so as to make as many calls as possible. Any data obtained (if used at all) is secondary in importance to negatively affecting the targeted candidate. Legitimate polls are often used by candidates to test potential messages. They frequently ask about either positive and negative statements about any or all major candidates in an election and always ask demographic information at the end.

Political push polls


Perhaps the most famous use of push polls is in the 2000 United States Republican Party primaries, when it was alleged that George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

's campaign used push polling to torpedo the campaign of Senator John McCain
John McCain
John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election....

. Voters in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 reportedly were asked "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" The poll's allegation had no substance, but was heard by thousands of primary voters. McCain and his wife had in fact adopted
Adoption
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

 a Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 girl. Bush had previously used push polls in his 1994 bid for Texas Governor against incumbent Ann Richards. Callers asked voters "whether they would be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if they knew that lesbians dominated on her staff."

In the 2008 general election, Jewish voters in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and Pittsburgh were targeted by a push poll attempting to disparage Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 by linking him with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Jewish Council for Education & Research, an organization that has endorsed Obama, denounced the push-poll as misinformation and lies.

Political consultant Lee Atwater
Lee Atwater
Harvey LeRoy "Lee" Atwater was an American political consultant and strategist to the Republican Party. He was an advisor of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee.-Childhood and early life:...

 was also well known for using push-polling among his aggressive campaign tactics. The main advantage of push polls is that they are an effective way of maligning an opponent ("pushing" voters towards a predetermined point of view) while avoiding direct responsibility for the distorted or false information used in the push poll. They are risky for this same reason: if credible evidence emerges that the polls were directly ordered by a campaign/candidate, it would do serious blowback
Blowback
Blowback may refer to one of the following:*Blowback *Blowback *Blowback , vacuum effect created in the barrel of a firearm when it is discharged...

 to that campaign. Push polls are also relatively expensive, having a far higher cost per voter than radio or television commercials. Thus, push polls are most used in elections with fewer voters, such as party primaries
Primary election
A primary election is an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election....

, or in close elections where a relatively small change in votes can mean victory or defeat.

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