Push Polling, What To Watch Out For

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project

If you receive a call that you suspect is a push poll, Patriot Project wants to know about it. (Leave a comment following this post.)  We are tracking the use of this unethical campaign tactic.

People across the country are receiving calls from organizations claiming to be taking opinion polls, but then assaulting the listener with the most horrible, slanderous, nasty  smears about candidates that sometimes continues until the listener hangs up.  The recipients of such calls are victims of push polls.

A previous Patriot Project post, Push Polling – What Is It?, discussed what push polling is and why it is effective. 

Push polls are, unfortunately, effective.  The method bestows an impression of credibility on the information being passed to the caller.  Thinking they are participating in a legitimate public opinion poll, many people naturally assume they are being asked about something that has been in the news or is common knowledge.  People assume such information is valid and have no way to know that the call is nothing more than one more campaign commercial, inn disguise and arriving through an unexpected channel.

Another reason push polling is effective is that, by presenting the campaign message as an opinion poll, it reaches an audience that would otherwise tune it out, like skipping past TV commercials while watching TV.  As people become immunized against commercials it takes more and more exposures to the ad’s message before it begins to sink in.  But people are listening, paying attention, because they think they are being asked to respond to a “question.”  If voters understood that the call was coming from a campaign they would not only tune it out, it could backfire on the source.

A third reason push polls are effective is that they are conducted “under the radar.”  Large numbers of people can be reached with a push poll before word starts to get out that this is happening.  So campaigns do not have time to mount an effective response.

Where does push-polling come from?  According to SourceWatch,

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