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Can election be used in place of poll? Like when you vote for your favourite actor for the best actor of the decade can it be called an election? Or does election strictly mean a formal appointment of a politician for a position for example? Would it sound too weird if I called it an election?

Here is the thing: I have an app where people can vote for some stuff similar to some twitter polls: "Which one of these movies is better?" type of polls. But I don't want to label these things as polls for some aesthetics reasons what if I labeled these polls as "Elections". I can see technically it is wrong but would a native english speaker be weirded out and be like "What do you mean elections?" or would they just roll with it because it doesn't feel unnatural? Or I am open to any other suggestions.

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  • Already asked and closed on ELU Jan 4, 2023 at 9:49
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    Since Astralbee was kind enough to answer your question, you might do them the favour of accepting it. Jan 4, 2023 at 10:53

3 Answers 3

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Although they may appear to be used interchangeably when people talk of 'election day' or 'polling day', the words 'poll' and 'election' do not mean the same thing.

An election is where someone gets elected to fill an office or position. In a democratic election, the person is usually elected by the result of a poll. But polls can be done for various other things.

You would not use 'election' to describe a poll of people's favourite actors as nobody is being elected. If you really have an objection to the word 'poll', why not call it a 'vote', or a 'survey'?

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  • @Astralbee thank you for response, could you have a look at the edited question i provided some more details.
    – khatara
    Jan 5, 2023 at 3:26
  • @khatara I've read your edit and I don't see any significant change. Basically, if nobody is being elected, it isn't an election. If it's a poll, call it a poll.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 5, 2023 at 9:02
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A poll is any count of preferences. See Merriam-webster sense 4a

the casting or recording of the votes of a body of persons

and sense 5a:

a questioning or canvassing of persons selected at random or by quota to obtain information or opinions to be analyzed

Both ultimately derive from sense 1 "Head". A poll is in this original sense, a head-count.

The word "poll" can be used for a formal election. (I believe that it is more common in that sense in the UK.) but can be, and now mor often is, used for an informal opinion servery. That kind of poll is not usually called an election. So one might say that all elections are polls, but not all polls are elections.

UPDATE based on additions to the question:

A selection by votes among users of an app for questions such as "Which one of these movies is better?" is not likely to be cvalled an election, and if that term is used it may cause confusion, or be thought odd. Such a choice is most likely to be called a "poll", but it might be called a "vote". Calling it an "election" would, in my view, be unwise.

Elections, in addition to usually being for official or at least well-defined positions, generally have a limiterd and defiend electorate (set of possible voters). A choide in which any random person can participate, and no accoutn is kept of who does participate, is not likelyn to be called an "election".

The answer by fertilizerspike mentions the choice of a "prom king" and "prom queen" at many US high schools. This choice is indeed called an election, or least it sometimes will be so called. It is true that these are not official positions. But they are fairly well defined and recognized positions, at least within a given school. They generally have actual function, althoguh not very important ones: the "king" and "queen" appear at a particular time and place, in that role, and no one else does so. Once the vote is held and the results tallied, there is normally no debate about who in fact holds the position. In all these ways this choice is more like an election, and less like an opinion poll, and so it might well be called an election, whereas an expression of opinion on "who is most sexy" or "who is the best actor" has none of these characteristics, and would nor normally be called an election.

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  • thank you for response, could you have a look at the edited question i provided some more details.
    – khatara
    Jan 5, 2023 at 3:26
  • Unsure why this answer mentions me at all, least of all why it attempts to refute my answer. Jan 6, 2023 at 16:00
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They are interchangeable in most cases. Many speakers might prefer to reserve "election" to describe the process of picking politicians or board members and so on but a common exception is "prom king and queen" election, a routine practice at high school dances in many places. There is no "prom king" office or authority, people just vote for who they like and watch them dance. The "viewer poll" seems to be a marketing invention and an idiosyncratic one, as most selections based on polling are called elections in which participants vote. Whenever a population is polled to select individuals for any reason it may safely be called an election.

A commonly used construction is "voted", eg "that celebrity was voted most sexy", which has the same meaning as "elected most sexy" but is more commonly used. The dictionary definitions might not suggest this usage of "vote" is valid, but it is commonly used without complaint and sounds natural to many English speakers.

In the example given, many native speakers would prefer calling such a poll a "vote", eg "Let's have a vote to decide which is the best movie."

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  • Thank you very much for your response. Here is the thing: I have an app where people can vote for some stuff like the one I mentioned in to original post, similar to some twitter polls: "Which one of these movies is better?" type of polls. But I don't want to label these things as polls for some aesthetics reasons what if I labeled these polls as "Elections". I can see technically it is wrong but would a native english speaker be weirded out and be like "What do you mean elections?" or would they just roll with it because it doesn't feel unnatural?
    – khatara
    Jan 5, 2023 at 3:25
  • Or I am open to any other suggestions.
    – khatara
    Jan 5, 2023 at 3:37
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    -1 I would not say that "poll" and "election" are "interchangeable in most cases." Poll is a wider term. Most elections are polls, but many polls would not be called elections. A survey, to determine what random people, or people in general thought was their favorite actor, or the best player in a particular sport, would not usually be called an election. Nor are "elected" and "voted" interchangeable. A fluent speaker would not say that X was "elected the most sexy" although "voted the most sexy" would be likely. A choice among a group of people for such a purpose might be called a vote. Jan 5, 2023 at 13:57
  • @khatara If you listen to this answer then you're clearly open to any suggestion.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:18
  • @DavidSiegel, Astralbee Thanks vote seems to be the most viable option.
    – khatara
    Jan 6, 2023 at 9:11

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