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A strategic gambit in political campaigning to appeal to certain voters without alienating others. These voters who could swing the outcome of an election may be highly responsive to populist but controversial policies, such as taking a hard-line on immigration or youth crime. The message the dog whistler articulates not only needs to pack punch, but it must sound convincing and authorative enough to the swinging voters, and reasonable and stomachable to others.

The expression comes from the idea that dogs can be made to hear high pitched whistle blasts that humans can't, although it has also been suggested that it refers to a major party recalling stray former voters away from minor parties, or to appeal to people's innate fears and desire for order.

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