What is Opposition Research | Nesbitt Research

What is Opposition Research


An Opposition Research Definition

So just what do political professionals mean when they talk about opposition research? We look at these questions and the contemporary meaning of the discipline.


Opposition research is in the news today with Don Jr.’s revelations that he took a meeting regarding “opposition research” supplied by Russian actors (pun intended). Seems our new found fame makes a good chance to look at just what is opposition research.

Some define opposition research as, “investigation into the dealings of political opponents, typically in order to discredit them publicly.”1

This conventional definition of opposition research is incomplete and somewhat misleading in our view. As this story suggests, Donald Trump neglected self research, or defensive research, a cornerstone of our craft. And something we recommend always and ahead of opposition research.

As Kevin Cirilli has noted, it’s “political tradition” to do defensive research. This promotes discussion and preparation for the political fights to come. It’s almost as much a team building excercise as anything.

At Nesbitt Research we consider “opposition research” to be the full and complete due diligence review of a candidate and their opponents. This may be in service to a specific candidate or to a Social Impact organization, a PAC or a party. For us it includes review of as much of the public record as possible.

In the defensive research situation, we may be engaged to review non-public records as well, with our client’s permission. We take this responsibility seriously and as Bloomberg noted, we think defensive research is as much a part of a great campaigns as opposition research.

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