Context. We investigate the optical polarization properties of high-energy BL Lac objects using data from the RoboPol blazar monitoring program and the Nordic Optical Telescope. Aims. We wish to understand if there are differences between the BL Lac objects that have been detected with the current-generation TeV instruments and those objects that have not yet been detected. Methods. We used a maximum-likelihood method to investigate the optical polarization fraction and its variability in these sources. In order to study the polarization position angle variability, we calculated the time derivative of the electric vector position angle (EVPA) change. We also studied the spread in the Stokes Q/I-U/I plane and rotations in the polarization plane. Results. The mean polarization fraction of the TeV-detected BL Lacs is 5%, while the non-TeV sources show a higher mean polarization fraction of 7%. This difference in polarization fraction disappears when the dilution by the unpolarized light of the host galaxy is accounted for. The TeV sources show somewhat lower fractional polarization variability amplitudes than the non-TeV sources. Also the fraction of sources with a smaller spread in the Q/I-U/I plane and a clumped distribution of points away from the origin, possibly indicating a preferred polarization angle, is larger in the TeV than in the non-TeV sources. These differences between TeV and non-TeV samples seem to arise from differences between intermediate and high spectral peaking sources instead of the TeV detection. When the EVPA variations are studied, the rate of EVPA change is similar in both samples. We detect significant EVPA rotations in both TeV and non-TeV sources, showing that rotations can occur in high spectral peaking BL Lac objects when the monitoring cadence is dense enough. Our simulations show that we cannot exclude a random walk origin for these rotations. Conclusions. These results indicate that there are no intrinsic differences in the polarization properties of the TeV-detected and non-TeV-detected high-energy BL Lac objects. This suggests that the polarization properties are not directly related to the TeV-detection, but instead the TeV loudness is connected to the general flaring activity, redshift, and the synchrotron peak location.
- BL Lacertae objects: general
- Galaxies: jets