Abstract Asymmetrical vibrations induce small oscillating dipole moments in the ground states of linear all-trans polyenes. Upon vertical excitation into one of the two low-lying valence excited states the induced in-plane dipole moments are increased 3 times and more. The rms dipole moments increase with the chain length. The inducing modes are the CCC skeletal bending and the CC stretching vibrations. CH stretching vibrations are also found to contribute non-negligible polarization.