Straw polls originated as small, informal public opinion "surveys" that later evolved into large-scale, random sample surveys used primarily to determine the viability of potential political candidates. Nowadays, pollsters offer a litany of straw polls before nearly every national election and several state elections.

The phrase straw poll has its origins in the idea of "straws in the wind," which were used to determine which way the wind is blowing. The earliest use of a straw poll was by a newspaper, The Harrisburg Penn-sylvanian, during the 1824 presidential election. Historically, straw polls were not scientific, and often they were conducted haphazardly. They relied on relatively large and sometimes massive samples to achieve some semblance of accuracy. Early on this included going to public places such as ...

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