I've heard the term strawpoll used in various TV shows and websites, and I hear poll when talking about the election.

Is there a difference between the two? Is poll just short for strawpoll? Is strawpoll just an older term?

  • 1
    Strawpoll - (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an unofficial poll or vote taken to determine the opinion of a group or the public on some issue. thefreedictionary.com/straw+poll
    – user66974
    Nov 6, 2016 at 20:11
  • Calling for a show of hands in a classroom or at a meeting would seem to meet the definition of strawpoll. Nov 7, 2016 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


"Poll" is the older form. It started out as a noun meaning "top of the head", which then led to the idea of "counting heads", which led to the modern meaning of collecting votes. According to the OED, this meaning arose early in the 1600s.

"Strawpoll" is more recent. The term might come from holding up a straw (i.e. a piece of grass) and watching it bend to see which way the wind was blowing. It's not a particularly accurate way of measuring wind speeds, but it tells you the general direction. So a straw poll is a quick-and-dirty poll that determines the general mood of the public. (Source: AHD of Idioms)


Found in Wikipedia, under Straw poll:

Straw polls are contrasted with opinion polls, usually conducted by telephone and based on samples of the voting public. Straw polls can also be contrasted with honor-system polls (such as online polls), in which ordinary voting controls are absent. In an ordinary event-based straw poll, controls common to elections are enforced: voting twice is prohibited; polls are not open for inordinately long periods of time; interim results are not publicized before polls close; etc. Honor-system polls may be conducted wholly online, conducted at one location over a period of months, conducted with interim results publicized, or even conducted with explicit permission to vote multiple times.

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