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Benchmark poll

What Is a Benchmark Poll?

2 min read
Benchmark poll Politics Team · Apr 30, 2024

In the world of political campaigns, benchmark polls can be a powerful tool. This type of polling can help political candidates to shape their campaign plans and understand 

Defining Benchmark Polls

A benchmark poll is a survey that assesses the initial level of support and knowledge for a candidate or issue at the start of a political campaign. Benchmark polls are also referred to as baseline polls because they establish a baseline or starting point for the campaign, allowing its level of support to be tracked over time.

Baseline polls typically survey a representative sample of people about their views on different topics. Respondents might be asked about:

  • Demographic characteristics, including age, gender, education level, and income

  • Political ideology or party affiliation

  • Voting intentions and history

  • Their engagement and interest level in the next election

  • Awareness of and favorability towards specific candidates

  • Perspectives on major issues

  • Information sources and media consumption habits

Measuring voter interest and public opinion can help a campaign determine whether more resources should be allocated to mobilization and voter engagement.

When and Why Campaigns Invest in Benchmark Polls

Baseline polls are often performed at the start of a political campaign, before the candidate has begun any major advertising or outreach initiatives. These polls enable the campaign to gauge electorate beliefs and attitudes before voters are swayed by the campaign's message and activities. 

Benchmark surveys are crucial for political campaigns for a variety of reasons:

  • Benchmark polls can help candidates understand their strengths and weaknesses.

  • They can help campaigns identify opportunities and threats in the race, especially when comparing the campaign to its competitors. 

  • Benchmark polls provide data that campaigns can use when deciding how to allocate limited resources. 

  • They help the campaign in determining the relevance of different issues and policies, as well as the effectiveness and appeal of a candidate's messaging.

  • They offer a baseline for monitoring the campaign's progress and performance over time.

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Overall, these candidate popularity surveys are important in assessing the electoral landscape and measuring public opinion. They can be foundational resources for candidates who are working to finalize their campaign strategies.

The Advantages of Conducting Benchmark Polls

Polling in political campaigns can provide strategic advantages for candidates and campaign teams. Here are some of the most notable advantages of conducting a benchmark poll:

  • Benchmark polls offer a comprehensive overview of the electoral environment, which can guide campaign strategy and tactics.

  • This strategic polling tool allows the campaign to adapt its messaging and policies to voters’ needs and preferences, communicating them more effectively.

  • Following polling, the campaign can segment and target voters based on their specific attributes and viewpoints.

  • Benchmark surveys prepare campaigns to innovate and adapt to shifting voter dynamics, while responding to difficulties and opportunities that come up during the race.

Considerations for Interpreting Poll Results

Political campaigns can benefit greatly from baseline polls, but the results of these surveys need to be interpreted critically and with caution. When examining the political survey insights from benchmark political survey methods, there are a few possible quirks and obstacles to be aware of.

Keep an eye on the following considerations:

  • The confidence level and margin of error, which express the degree of variability and uncertainty in the results

  • The poll's sample size and sampling technique, which have an impact on the reliability and representativeness of the political survey’s insights

  • The questions' wording, order, and response options, all of which may have an impact on respondents' responses

  • The timing and context of polling, which may have an impact on respondents' attentiveness and mood

Benchmark Polls vs. Other Political Polls

Political campaigns often employ a variety of political polling techniques for voter sentiment analysis and electoral landscape assessment. Other common political polling formats have distinct uses and roles during the election season.

Here are some of the most common other types of political polling:

  • Tracking Polls: These are different from benchmark surveys in that they are conducted regularly throughout the campaign to track shifts and fluctuations in the views and opinions of the electorate.

  • Issue Polls: This type of polling is different from benchmark surveys in that it concentrates on certain topics or issues, such as healthcare, education, the economy, or other local concerns that are important and relevant to the election. These polls help test the campaign's messaging regarding issues and policies.

  • Message Polls: These gauge voters’ receptivity to and impression of the campaign's messaging and slogans. These polls help candidates  assess how well the campaign's communication and persuasion techniques are working.

  • Push Polls: These attempt to sway or control the thoughts and attitudes of the electorate by disseminating favorable or unfavorable information about the issues or the candidates. Unlike benchmark polling, push polling is not a neutral campaign tactic.


Benchmark polls are a powerful tool in political campaigns’ tool boxes because they offer an abundance of information about the voter and the electoral environment. They also provide political campaigns with a number of strategic benefits, including advising and directing their approach to voter engagement. 

Want to learn more about political polling and running for office? Click here to learn how to participate in political polls, or explore our full collection of campaign resources here.

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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.