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Push Polling

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Courtesy of The Daily WTF
Any poll that has been somehow skewed toward a certain result.

One method is framing the questions to get the answers you want, typically with loaded questions.

Close, but not the same, is where you don't care about the answer, you just are using the questions themselves to sway people: the poll is propaganda or rumormongering masquerading as opinion polling. Example: "Do you believe we should retreat and let the enemy conquer the world? (Yes/No)". Another example: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Candidate X if you knew he was a convicted murderer?"

Another is polling people when you already know how they will answer, that is, only polling people who might already have the opinion you want. For example, polling only rich people about whether welfare expenditure is too high.

Also there is polling people to identify their opinion personally in order to discover exactly who has what opinion, which is the opposite of legitimate polls where people are only identified by the demographic, not by name.

Subtrope of Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (using credible-sounding statistics for deception). Compare Selective Stupidity (which is doing some Manipulative Editing to make people appear stupid). Often involves a False Dichotomy (believing that only two—often conflicting—options exist, when there are many other alternatives) and Distinction Without a Difference (pretending two things are different when they're functionally the same).


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    Live-Action TV 
  • The Colbert Report: Parodied. <insert person>, Great <relative position> or Greatest <relative position>? (George Bush, Great President or Greatest President?) And trying to Take a Third Option by flat saying the subject wasn't great at all just gets you "I'll just put you down for 'great', then, because that's not as great..."
  • Parks and Recreation: Leslie tries to get public support for building a park, by presenting the question to the public as "Wouldn't you rather have a park than a storage facility for nuclear waste?"
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: In an episode about statistics, one guest shows how polls are slanted to get a certain answer by asking questions of the same person and getting conflicted answers.
  • Saturday Night Live: During a 1982 episode of the show, Eddie Murphy presents a live lobster in a chef's kitchen on-air. He then opens a a phone poll so that viewers can decide whether to cook the lobster or not. Murphy deliberately tries to skew the poll towards killing the crustacean by enunciating the "cook" number slowly and clearly while speeding through the "spare" number. Despite this, the "spare" option wings; Murphy, however, cooks and serves the lobster anyways a week later due to racist remarks he received in the wake of the poll.
  • Yes, Prime Minister: Sir Humphrey demonstrates how this works by asking Bernard two separate series of questions, one leading to the obvious conclusion that compulsory military service would be a good thing and the other leading to the obvious conclusion that compulsory military service would be a bad thing.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin likes to confront his dad with polls of the 6-year-old and tiger populations of the house. While these invariably show a landslide of popular opinion, his father inexplicably remains unmoved.
  • Doonesbury: A reporter at a George W. Bush museum interacts with an exhibit designed to show why Dubya wasn't the Worst President Ever. The questions go "Allow Saddam to somehow use WMD's he didn't have to take over the world" or "Invade Iraq again".
  • Pearls Before Swine: Rat takes a job as a pollster. Of course, being Rat, he skews the questions, asking ones like "Do you support the mayor, or do you agree with all the people who say he's a bigtime poophead?" Later, when asked to be more neutral, he does ask seemingly neutral questions... such as "Do you support the current economic policies?" to three homeless people.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Esoterrorists: Like other high-paid political firms, Pedroso, Bash, and Cibulski is able to change public opinion by measuring it, through a technique known as push-polling. Instead of asking crude questions about the candidates in a race, it poses a series of obscure queries on apparently unrelated subjects, designed through psychographic means as yet unknown (and impossible to divine from reading Dario Pedroso's books on the subject) to elicit surprisingly potent changes in outlook by the listener. The interviewer then concludes with a brief positive mention of the candidate, which appears to create an almost post-hypnotic bond between the politician's name and this alteration in worldview. These polls, conducted immediately prior to elections, swung the vote to Pedroso's clients by as much as 15%, or so he claims. More importantly, independent follow-up polling have found that these interviewees change their self-descriptions in such matters as party affiliation, the acceptability of sexual practices, and even religious beliefs.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The Valentione's Day 2020 event offers the players a choice of three NPCs to vote for as the Emissary of Love, with unique cutscenes that would play at the conclusion of the event depending on who wings. However, Astrid is pushed as the blatantly correct option (existing ties to the event, the traditional color scheme, etc), as a result of which she ends up winning the election on every server in the entire game. The dev blog details What Could Have Been if Rodrigault or Bert had won.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure: In Azure, President Dieter Crois starts a referendum (actually a non-legislative opinion poll) asking for citizen opinions on the topic of Crossbell independence. However, he never mentions the obstacles they would have to face to achieve independence, skewing results towards pro-independence because people don't understand the full consequences of this decision. He also hires the Red Constellation to start a False Flag Operation against Crossbell to further push the poll towards independence. While the poll isn't supposed to actually determine policy, Dieter has all other legislators secretly placed under house arrest, and then uses the results of the poll to make his forceful actions toward independence seem legitimate.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe: The 1956 flashback shows Lam answering a "Zhujin Census Form" which skews in favor of the Sphere and Japanization. The first two questions, his background, and contributions to the state, are answered honestly enough, but the final question asks for his opinion of the Co-Prosperity Sphere and whether or not it has benefitted Guangdong, to which Lam writes about how the influx of Japanese capitol has raised the standards of living. Throughout all of this, Lam must write in perfect Japanese to show that he's been assimilated into their culture and implicitly prove his loyalty to Japan. By the end, it isn't clear where the truths and fictions lie.

    Web Comics 

  • Lowering the Bar: Parodied in regards to posthumously pardoning Jim Morrison for a public indecency charge. The website's opinion poll offered readers the choice to vote "yes, we think Jim Morrison should be pardoned" or "no, I either don't know who that is, do not like music or other kinds of fun, or think it is more consistent with American values to not cheer up Morrison's aging father by clearing his son's name of a trumped-up charge that was President Nixon's idea in the first place."
  • A Thread About How Much I Love Asriel: Nasso posted a poll where he asked Twitter users to decide how he would spend the next 24 hours. All four options were "love Asriel."

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: In "Tourist Trapped", Mabel secretly gives a boy a quiz in an attempt to gain a boyfriend, with all three choices being positive responses.
    Boy: Um, "Do you like me? Yes. Definitely. Absolutely!!!"
    Mabel: I rigged it.
  • Smiling Friends: At the end of "Shrimp's Odyssey", a poll is held to see if the new Smiling Friend, Smormu, will be a permanent addition to the cast. Voting means texting a phrase to a phone number—those who wanted Smormu in can just type in his name, but those who don't need to put in "NO I REALLY REALLY REALLY DON'T WANT SMORMU." While the requirement for voting against him getting in the show is far more complex than voting for him, the votes for and against him were apparently equal, but the votes from the "electoral college" cemented his debut for real. He's in the show for a brief moment, then is dead by the time the credits are finished.
  • You're (Not) Elected, Charlie Brown: Lucy takes an opinion poll to see if Linus could win the school election. Naturally, she intimidates everyone into saying they would vote for him and she thus concludes that he has a good chance.

    Real Life 
  • PiQ's (replacement for Newtype USA): An article regarding fans' opinions on their new format. The fact that it was called the "Cheese and Whine Party" pretty much guaranteed that anyone who didn't like it wasn't exactly going to get much sympathy.
  • Happens all the time on Wikipedia. Many people seem to think they can change the (nebulous) rules and force all other editors to do what they say, simply by holding a small biased poll on the matter. One of the more famous ones was a policy proposal to outlaw sarcasm.
  • Google Docs offers a surprisingly long survey, and the bulk of the questions are asking whether the user is aware of such-and-such feature. It seems it's at least as much about making the surveyed users aware of those features than it's about gauging how many people are using them, which could presumably be accomplished without a survey since Google Docs runs on Google's own servers.
  • Any Twitter poll that says "RT for yes, fave/like for no". Since only one of those options is a signal boost, and people generally follow people whose opinions they share to some extent, you can bet more potential "yes" voters are going to see this than "no" voters.
  • There was a famous Real Life example to show how people will sign any petition if it's worded the right way. People were asked to sign a petition to ban the substance dihydrogen monoxide — used in industry with almost no regulations, used by various kinds of criminals, capable of killing humans and other animals, able to corrode iron... Of course, anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry should know what molecule has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. note 
  • One infamous push poll was created by Karl Rove while working to get George W. Bush nominated for president over John McCain. "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?"note  Other polls implied that he was homosexual and that he was mentally deranged because of his captivity in Vietnam. Theoretically this is a moot point, because he didn't — but the poll put the idea in people's heads, without technically making a provably false accusation.
  • Moral philosophers do this on purpose, and it is amazing how they can completely change someone's answer to the most fundamental questions of life by changing only the way exactly the same question is phrased. Which is why education is important in the first place.
  • When Kay Hagan was running against Elizabeth Dole for a North Carolina U.S. Senate seat, potential voters received calls from a company that was taking a poll. One of the questions is, "Would it affect your vote to know that Kay Hagan is associating with and taking money from atheists?" This question and some others like it soon made it clear that the "polling company" was not legitimate, but was only asking questions to raise doubts about Hagan. Dole's campaign also ran a TV ad implying that Hagan, who was a former Sunday school teacher, was an atheist. By the way, Dole lost the election.
  • Backfired for Republican Minnesota state representative Eric Lucero, who created an online poll in 2020 reading "It was recently reported Gov. Walz is considering a unilateral edict with a stroke of his pen to mandate masks upon everybody across Minnesota. Do you support Gov. Walz continuing to usurp the Legislative Branch, violate the Constitution, and create his own laws as an unchecked king?" Despite the incredibly biased wording, 69% of respondents on Facebook and 91.7% on Twitter voted "Yes, I do."
  • A rumored Real Life example that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union. The politicians interested in splitting the Union polled the general public with the question "Do you want to be independent?" Obviously, nobody is going to answer "no".
  • In the Netherlands, right-wing politician Geert Wilders was put on trial for using this trope to incite hate speech during one of his campaign rallies. During the rally, he asked his followers if they wanted "More or less Moroccans" in the Netherlands, to which most chanted "Less!". Wilders then stated "We'll take care of that, then.", which caused thousands of people to press charges against him for discriminatory statements. The public proscecutor decided to take the case and Wilders was eventually charged with "hate speech and inciting discrimination" at the court case. He, nevertheless, did not get punished by the court and later walked back on his words, stating he only meant the "criminal" fraction of Moroccans during his rally speech.


Video Example(s):


Do you like Mabel?

Mabel gives a cute boy a poll to see if he likes her, but the options are obviously biased.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / PushPolling

Media sources: