Pressure groups use opinion polls to help further political agendas, as in the case of hunting with dogs. The authors evaluate the two types of poll that have featured in the campaigning: ‘scientific’ (representative) polls and ‘straw’ polls. The shortcomings of straw polls are well known and the new problem of ‘piling in’ where pressure groups direct their supporters to such polls is described, raising a number of potential ethical issues. The apparent discrepancy in ‘scientific’ opinion polls commissioned by the two sides of the debate is examined and an attempt to reconcile the differences is made. The authors' observations raise questions about the value and limitations of polling as well as technical and ethical issues the polling industry and professional bodies need to address. Copyright © 2003 Henry Stewart Publications