From Academic Kids
A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning. The term is also sometimes used incorrectly 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.
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 abortion in order to get voters thinking about that issue.
More negative are attacks on another candidate by using polls. These attacks often contain information with little or no basis in fact.
True push polls tend to be very short, with only a handful of questions, so as to make as many calls as possible. The data obtained is discarded, not analyzed. Any poll that does not ask demographic information -- such as age, income, or race -- is generally not a legitimate poll, but some form of advertising.
Perhaps the most famous alleged use of push polls is in the 2000 United States Republican Party primaries, when it was alleged that George W. Bush's campaign used push polling to torpedo the campaign of Senator John McCain. Voters in South Carolina reported being 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?" an allegation that had no substance but planted the idea of undisclosed allegations in the minds of thousands of primary voters. McCain and his wife had in fact adopted an Asian child.
The main advantage of push polls is that they are an effective way of maligning an opponent while avoiding the appearance of negative campaigning that voters dislike. They are risky in that if it is ever proven that the polls were ordered by the campaign it would do serious damage to the candidate. Push polls are also expensive. It is of far higher cost per voter than radio or television commercials. They are thus most effective in smaller elections with only a few thousand voters such as party primaries.
These factors also make push polls not particularly attractive to private companies as a form of marketing.