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Commissioning a Poll
For Candidates

How to Commission a Poll: Tips for Political Candidates

3 min read
Commissioning a Poll Politics Team · May 16, 2024

Commissioning a poll can be an effective strategy for political candidates who want to learn more about voters’ preferences, opinions, and expected behavior at the voting booth. There are different types of polls, each with a specific purpose and use case. In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of polls that are often used in political campaigns. Then we’ll walk through the process of commissioning a poll and provide tips for getting the most out of each survey.

What Is Polling in Political Campaigns?

Polling means employing survey instruments to obtain and create records of individuals’ opinions, perspectives, and personal data. Both qualitative and quantitative instruments may be used. Qualitative data is gathered through open-ended questioning. Quantitative data is obtained through direct, fixed questions with multiple-choice answers in political campaign surveys.

Types of Polls in Political Campaigns

Different types of polls are used to obtain varied forms of data and information in political campaigns. The same general methodology is applied to designing most political polls. Every poll requests that a random group of people provide their opinions concerning specific subjects. Yet, different types of polls use different sampling tools. Some polls are more extensive or broad in the topics that they cover, while others are more streamlined and focused in polling for political candidates.

Commonly used types of polls include the following:

  • Public Opinion Polls: These polls ask for participants’ opinions on various topics that are relevant to current political, social, and economic topics. They may determine the group members’ opinions and/or their ratings of public figures. 

  • Brushfire Polls: Brushfire polls are designed to calculate changes in voter sentiment throughout a political campaign. For instance, a brushfire poll may take measurements of a candidate’s popularity ratings by asking participants to give “favorable” and “unfavorable” responses.

  • Tracking Polls: Tracking polls are short surveys administered on a daily or otherwise regular basis among the same sampling of voters. They are conducted at key times during primary or general elections. 

  • Exit Polls: These polls are given to voters as they exit polling locations after voting in an election. They help candidates, campaign managers, political analysts, and the public to gain knowledge and insights while waiting for official election results to be published. 

  • Straw Polls: Straw polls are unofficial ad hoc votes. These surveys offer an overview of a political race ahead of the election, rather than counting as part of a final polling tally in voter opinion research.

Well-conducted, accurate polls are important tools during political campaigns. Campaigns thrive on the knowledge gained from scientifically designed surveys of the voting public. They can benefit from understanding the opinions and attitudes of voters, both ahead of and following elections.

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Steps to Commissioning a Poll

The basic steps to commissioning a poll for your campaign are as follows:

#1: Define Your Objectives

Before starting a poll, clearly define what you hope to learn. Consider whether the purpose of the poll is to gather insights to aid in campaign planning ("polling to know") or to generate data that supports a specific narrative or campaign message ("polling to show"). Understanding your goals will inform the design of the poll and the questions you ask.

#2: Choose the Type of Poll

Select the type of poll that best fits your goals. Your options range from public opinion polls, which gauge broad sentiments on various topics, to more targeted brushfire polls, which track changes in voter opinion throughout a campaign. The choice of poll will affect the methodology and the demographic sampling required.

#3: Plan for the Distribution of Results

Decide in advance how you will use and distribute the poll results. This could involve briefing the local media or preparing materials for campaign events. Knowing your audience and their needs can influence both the questions you ask and the way you present the data. That’s why it can be helpful to think through this step before creating and sending out your survey questions.

#4: Select a Polling Partner

Choose a polling firm or consultant with a strong reputation and expertise in political polling. Ensure that they have experience in your specific type of election. A reputable partner will help you craft unbiased questions and ensure the poll’s methodology aligns with your campaign's goals. Relying on an experienced polling partner can also take a lot of the guesswork out of the polling process.

#5: Develop the Polling Questions

Work closely with your pollster to develop questions that are clear, unbiased, and relevant to the issues at hand. Avoid leading questions that could introduce bias to the results. Effective questions are crucial for gathering meaningful data that accurately reflects the views of your constituency.

By following these steps, political candidates can commission polls that are insightful, ethical, and aligned with their campaign strategies.

Ethical Considerations When Commissioning a Poll

Ethical considerations when commissioning a poll for a political campaign are of utmost importance during political polling best practices commissioning. The issues of transparency, accuracy, and privacy concerns must always be addressed. Reputable and reliable polling companies offer transparency concerning their methodologies and polling results.

Legitimate pollsters in the campaign polling process have privacy policies that reveal how respondents’ personal and political information will be used and safeguarded. The results of high-quality polls are also accurate and well-presented. When choosing a polling partner, be sure to choose a group that has a high standard of integrity and has demonstrated a strong track record of successful polling.

The Benefits of Commissioning a Political Poll

Commissioning a political campaign poll can provide a variety of benefits, including the following:

  • Political polling can aid candidates in creating impactful campaign messaging. Once you know what voters think about key issues or topics, you can customize your messaging so that it resonates as effectively as possible.

  • Candidates running for political office often use polling to measure their popularity and identify any weaknesses in their campaigns that need to be addressed.

  • Results from political polls enable analysts and media networks to more accurately predict the outcomes of elections. These analyses can be useful for voters who feel the need to participate in strategic voting.

Overall, political polls can be empowering tools when leveraged effectively. These polls enable candidates to make better and more informed decisions during a political race. By participating in political polls in the form of phone calls, online surveys, or exit polls, voters provide unique insights and attitudes on vital campaign issues.

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Want access to free campaign software and expert support as you develop your political campaign? Whether you’re at the beginning, middle, or end of your political campaign, extra support can go a long way. offers free tools and resources for independent, non-partisan, and third-party candidates running for office across the United States. Our suite of tools include access to voter insights, AI-powered campaign content generators, and an easy-to-use voter outreach tracker. Low-cost resources including voter data and SMS text messaging are also available.

You can learn more about all of’s offerings for candidates by booking a meeting with a member of our team, or by taking a quick self-guided tour of the tools.

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How to Run for Office
Campaign Messaging
Commissioning a Poll
By Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.