Although we know that candidates, parties and governments conduct political market research and engage in heated debate about it, market research in politics remains a largely hidden activity. This article presents the perspectives of practitioners involved in collecting and using market research including advisors to 11 presidents and prime ministers and demonstrates that market analysis in politics is a multi-varied activity, carried out within a complex context. The over-simplistic criticism that political marketing means politicians simply follow focus groups needs to be revised, and although poor practice will always occur, practitioners are developing more fluid and mature ways to utilise research in politics. Political market research can play a valuable role in informing the decisions politicians make and enhance the relationship between the government and the public.

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