Imagine you are a presidential candidate. You have a potential winning policy idea. Now is time to finesse the details. Your fundamental goal is persuade as many people as possible about your policy idea.

Now, you know that some people will be turned off by it, but you believe your messaging can help outnumber those that are turned off. Maybe you could say that this is all intentional at this point. You know what kinds of people you will never receive their support from, and you know what people could join you. This seems all intentional so far.


My question deals with the unintentional losses. Maybe you chose an incorrect word or phrase. Turns out you lost people. Maybe gaffes would fall under a similar idea, but they aren't my main focus (just to help explain the idea).

Your goal was to persuade people, but you did the opposite, unintentionally.

What is a word that means that? This can be a word or phrase.

What I did

I thought a good word was dissuade, and I used that. But the more I think about it, it appears that dissuade is an intentional act. You are intentionally persuading someone to not do something. That is what dissuade appears to mean. However, that is intentional, and I am looking for unintentional.

In particular, I wrote something like this, "...add just one word and you can dissuade many, but you also persuade many others." Just to reiterate, I was going for intentionally to unintentionally as concise as possible.

  • Botched rollout, or unintentionally dissuasive. I don't think there's a single word solution to this. Anti-charismatic is just reaching too far. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 26 '19 at 2:49
  • @WayfaringStranger but I am correct in that dissuade is intentional, right? – Christopher Rucinski Nov 26 '19 at 3:45
  • @ Christopher Rucinski: Usually That's true, but consider the sentence "The President's speech dissuaded as many voters as it persuaded". Surely the President had one intent, and not the other, so one of the two must be unintended. Adding another word to clarify intent is safest. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 26 '19 at 4:25
  • Not one word but--put off--phrasal verb, to make someone not want to do something (Macmillan). Political context: nytimes.com/2019/09/30/upshot/…. – KannE Nov 26 '19 at 6:39
  • @WayfaringStranger where did you get that quote from? Maybe by including both your indirectly assume unintentionality, but when you just use dissuade alone, then it is intentional??? – Christopher Rucinski Nov 28 '19 at 3:58

The word often used for this is alienate:

cause (someone) to become unsympathetic or hostile. —Oxford Dictionaries/Lexico

It is used extremely often to describe the act of accidentally losing voters:

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"A gaffe is when a politician unintentionally tells the truth."
——Michael Kinsley

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  • I added a change to express my desire more fully. I don't know if a gaffe is directly related, but it has the same effect (I think) of possibly loading support unintentionally. Not sure if that is "wide-spread" enough of a word – Christopher Rucinski Nov 26 '19 at 3:56
  • Sorry for the digression. You mentioned gaffe, and it reminded me of the rather famous witticism by an American pundit. Not very to-the-point, but amusing. – JMR Nov 26 '19 at 4:28

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