What is an oppo in slang?

An “oppo” is a slang term that refers to someone’s opposite or rival, often in a political context. It originated from the full term “political opponent” and is commonly used in British and Australian political circles. The shortened word “oppo” began gaining popularity in the late 20th century.

In politics, your oppo is the candidate or party that is challenging you in an election. It can also refer more broadly to the opposing party or faction you have to contend with on various issues. Calling someone your “oppo” suggests an adversarial but non-hostile rivalry.

What Does “Oppo” Mean?

The slang word “oppo” is short for:

  • Opponent – Your rival, competitor or opposing force
  • Opposition – The major party opposed to the one in power; the resistance or dissent against those governing
  • Opposite – The reverse or contrary position

So your oppo is whoever or whatever challenges, contests, or resists what you stand for.

Some key points about the term “oppo” in politics:

  • It refers to your main rival or the opposition party.
  • It suggests an adversarial but non-hostile relationship.
  • It’s often used lightheartedly or jokingly.
  • The oppo aims to oppose, expose weaknesses, and ultimately defeat you.
  • You strategize how to counter the oppo’s platform and messaging.

Outside of politics, oppo may refer to:

  • Sports – Your opposing team or competitor.
  • Business – Your main industry rival.
  • Interpersonal – Someone with an opposing view in an argument.
  • Culture – A subculture radically different from mainstream norms.

But in most contexts, “oppo” is still shorthand for “opposition” – whoever or whatever is working against you and your interests.

Origin and History

The origin of “oppo” as a slang abbreviation comes from British politics in the late 80s and early 90s. It was popularized as a shorthand used among political operatives and journalists referring to the opposition party.

Some key events in the history of the term “oppo”:

  • 1980s – “Oppo” first appears in the UK as a shorthand for the Official Opposition party.
  • 1990s – It spreads through Britain’s Westminster political culture.
  • 2000s – “Oppo” becomes widely used in British media and politics.
  • 2000s – American political strategists bring it back from the UK.
  • 2010s – “Oppo” gains currency in US politics and media.
  • 2020s – It is now commonly used in British English, Australian English, and American English.

The term moved from insider political jargon to widespread slang over 30-40 years. It was a convenient shorthand for “opposition” that seasoned political operatives found useful and humorous.

Usage in British and Australian Politics

“Oppo” is used frequently in British and Australian political circles. It’s a hallmark of Westminster parliamentary politics where a major party is “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.”

In the UK House of Commons, the largest party not in government forms the Official Opposition, led by the Leader of the Opposition. The opposition plays a crucial role in scrutinizing the government and providing an alternative.

Likewise, Australian federal politics has a formal Opposition party called the Shadow Cabinet. It’s led by the Leader of the Opposition.

So “oppo” is woven into Commonwealth parliamentary politics. Political journalists, elected members, consultants, and staffers use it colloquially as an insider term.

You’ll often see British headlines like:

  • “Oppo says PM bungled COVID response”
  • “After scandal, Oppo calls for Finance Minister resignation”
  • “Oppo Leader rips proposed climate policy in debate”

It’s a concise way to refer to the opposition party’s actions and statements without naming them every time.

Usage in American Politics

“Oppo” wasn’t commonly used in America until the 21st century. But as more American political operatives worked on British campaigns over the years, they brought the term back across the Atlantic.

Now “oppo” can be heard in US campaign war rooms, political newsrooms, and government halls. For example:

  • “Our oppo is blanketing the airwaves with attack ads”
  • “We better do more oppo research before the election”
  • “I’m meeting with the oppo leader to discuss a bipartisan bill”

It’s used the same way as in Commonwealth politics – as insider jargon to refer efficiently to your opponents or opposition forces.

Usage in Other Contexts

While “oppo” originated from the political phrase “official opposition,” it has extended to other contexts where opposites, rivals, or resistance forces interact. For example:

  • Sports – The team captain says “Our oppo is tough, but we can beat them.”
  • Business – The CEO says “Our oppo just matched our prices, so we need a new strategy.”
  • Culture – “Mainstream norms are being challenged by new oppo movements and subcultures.”

Wherever there are established powers, there tend to be counterpowers that resist them and offer an alternative vision. “Oppo” is a flexible slang term for these oppositional forces in many areas of life.

Breaking Down Political Oppo

To understand the role of oppo in politics, let’s break it down:

Leader of the Opposition

This is the head of the largest party that is not in government. They lead the opposition in challenging the party in power. In the Westminster system, this is an official role and title. They assemble a “shadow cabinet” as an alternative government-in-waiting.

Opposition Party

This is whichever political party is not in control of the legislature or executive branch. Their primary aim is opposing the policies, ideologies, and power of the governing party. They may also offer an alternative platform and vision.

Opposition Research

This involves investigating and gathering intelligence on political opponents to uncover weaknesses. Oppo research is done to find dirt that can be used against them in the media or campaign messaging. It has become a core practice in modern political campaigns.

Opposition Messaging

Crafting statements, speeches, ads, and talking points that criticize the governing party is key work of the opposition. This messaging aims to sway media coverage and public opinion by highlighting the failures and harms of the incumbent power.

Loyal Opposition

This refers to the role of the opposition party to hold the government accountable through constitutional methods. They should critique respectfully and offer constructive feedback – not just obstruction. The aim is improving policy, not merely toppling the government.

Reasons to Use “Oppo” in Politics

Here are some of the motivations behind using the shorthand “oppo” among political insiders:

  • Efficiency – “Oppo” saves time compared to saying “opposition party.” In fast-paced political environments, concision is highly valued.
  • Clarity – It clearly denotes your adversarial but legitimate counterpart in the political process.
  • Camaraderie – It can build an insider feeling and group identity among party affiliates.
  • Humor – “Oppo” is jovial political shorthand used jokingly between colleagues to lighten tense situations.
  • Tradition – Veterans continue using “oppo” as a mark of experience. Those new to politics adopt it as a sign of belonging.

In many ways, “oppo” reflects the unique culture and rituals of politics. It’s a quick, clear, humorous way to reference your rivals that builds community among political animals of all stripes.

Oppo Tactics: Strategies Used Against Political Opponents

What sort of strategies and tactics do politicians and parties use against their “oppos” in hopes of gaining a competitive edge? Here are some common approaches:

Opposition Research

This involves digging up dirt on opponents that can be leaked to the media or incorporated into campaign ads. Oppo research aims to find past scandals, gaffes, inconsistencies, corruption, or weaknesses that make the candidate look bad.

Negative Campaigning

This uses attack ads, criticism, and negative framing of opponents instead of positively promoting one’s own platform. Negative campaigning is designed to make the oppo seem unqualified, dangerous or scary to voters.

Smear Campaigns

This spreads lies, exaggerations, and propaganda to damage the reputation and credibility of the oppo. Smear campaigns try to demonize or even dehumanize political adversaries.


The opposition party may broadly try to obstruct, delay, and derail the majority party’s agenda. This can involve blocking legislation, filibustering, denying quorum, clogging committees, and using procedural tactics to make governance fail.

Vote Whipping

Party leaders strongly pressure members to vote with the party line on legislation. Whips enforce voting discipline and ensure that the oppo presents a unified front against the majority.

While sometimes necessary, these aggressive oppo tactics can also degrade democratic discourse and prevent compromise.

Ethics of Opposition Politics

The role of the “loyal opposition” is crucial for democracy. But political oppo can cross ethical lines in its quest for power. Some factors to consider:

  • Truth – Oppos should avoid dishonesty, deception and distorting facts.
  • Lawfulness – Actions should be non-violent and conform to the constitution.
  • Restraint – Be assertive but avoid extremeness. Keep perspective.
  • Good faith – Assume shared goals and some common ground with opponents.
  • Civility – Criticize respectfully without malice. Maintain dialogue.
  • Cooperation – Be willing to compromise and acknowledge valid points.

A principled oppo plays hardball but not dirty. They are watchdog, not attack dog. They offer critical counter-perspectives to improve policy, not just for power itself. Ethical opposition is vital for democracy.

Oppo Case Study: Obama vs. Romney in 2012

The 2012 US presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney offers an insightful case study in oppo strategy:

Romney’s Oppo Approach

Romney ran as a center-right Republican aiming to portray Obama as a failed, partisan leftist. His oppo strategy included:

  • Tying Obama to a weak economic recovery
  • Attacking Obama’s health care reform as a government takeover
  • Targeting Obama as weak on foreign policy
  • Painting Obama as a big government liberal

This oppo messaging was designed to frame Obama as wrong for America.

Obama’s Oppo Approach

Obama aimed to paint Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat indifferent to ordinary Americans. His oppo tactics included:

  • Tying Romney to Wall Street greed and the Great Recession
  • Attacking Romney for his private equity work at Bain Capital
  • Hammering Romney for his “47 percent” comment about poor Americans
  • Portraying Romney as a flip-flopper who lacked principles

This messaging framed Romney as not understanding or caring about voters’ lives.


Obama was able to effectively define Romney early on, shaping media coverage and voter views. He leveraged oppo to help secure a 332 to 206 electoral vote victory over Romney.

The Future of Opposition Politics

Looking ahead, a number of trends may shape the nature of political opposition in the future:

  • More polarization – Oppos seem likely to become more adversarial and less cooperative.
  • Demographic shifts – Rising groups like Millennials and Hispanics could change coalition dynamics.
  • Populism – Economic dislocation may fuel non-traditional oppo movements on the left and right.
  • Social media – Oppo politics may play out more on digital platforms with less intermediation.
  • Disinformation – New technologies empower greater distortion and deception.
  • Reform – Backlash against hyper-partisanship could bring rules to curb excesses.

While oppos are an eternal feature of politics, their conduct and impact may evolve in this fast-changing information age. But democratic health will depend on principled opposition that engages instead of divides citizens.


In summary, “oppo” is a ubiquitous slang term in modern politics referring to your political opposition or opponent. It originated in British and Australian parliamentary politics but is now widely used in America as well. While opposition parties play a constructive role in democracy, unethical oppo tactics can also poison political discourse. Nevertheless, political adversaries must interact as “loyal oppo” to serve citizens. In an era of intense partisanship, the ideal role of opposition in democracy remains an open question.

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