It involves presenting a biased or skewed view of public opinion as if it were a genuine, grassroots movement, when in fact it is a coordinated effort by a small group of individuals or organizations.
Unlike natural grassroots campaigns which are people-rich and money-poor, an astroturf campaign tends to be the opposite, well-funded but with little actual support from voters.
Astroturfing is often used by political parties or other interest groups to manipulate public opinion or to gain support for a particular issue or policy.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as by creating fake social media accounts or blogs to spread a particular message, or by organizing fake letter-writing campaigns or protests.
The term “astroturfing” is derived from the artificial grass surface known as astroturf, which is used in many sports stadiums. The term is used to suggest that the apparent grassroots support for an issue is fake or artificial, like astroturf.
It’s often used as a way to bypass traditional gatekeepers, such as journalists or political leaders, and to directly influence public opinion.
It can be difficult to detect, as it is designed to look like genuine, grassroots support.
Astroturfing has become increasingly common in recent years, due in part to the rise of social media and the ease with which fake accounts and other forms of astroturfing can be created and disseminated.
Critics argue that the practice is unethical and undemocratic, as it allows a small group of individuals or organizations to create the appearance of widespread support for their views, even if those views are not widely held.
This can lead to a distorted view of public opinion and can prevent the true will of the people from being accurately represented.
In some cases, astroturfing may be illegal, depending on the specific laws of a particular country or jurisdiction. For example, in many places, it is illegal for organizations to engage in the practice without disclosing their involvement in the activity.
John Oliver had a very good segment on the practice:
Examples of “astroturfing” in a sentence
- The use of astroturfing has become increasingly common in politics, as interest groups try to manipulate public opinion through fake grassroots campaigns.
- The astroturfing campaign was designed to create the appearance of widespread support for the proposal, even though many of the ‘supporters’ were actually paid actors.
- Critics argue that astroturfing is unethical and undermines the democratic process, as it allows a small group of individuals to create the appearance of widespread support for their views.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.