Using Volunteers to Conduct a Campaign Poll

Gone are the days when campaigning for political office was hit-or-miss, when the candidate decided his campaign message over a beer then went out and repeated that message as often as possible.  Today, modern campaigns rely on the campaign poll to determine the mood of the voters and their response to the candidate’s message.

If you want to win your campaign, it is imperative that you poll.  There is almost no campaign that is too small to do some kind of polling.  If you don’t poll, your campaign is just walking in the dark.  You need polls to formulate a great campaign plan and superior message.

Over the years, polling has gotten a “bad rap.”  Many people think that politicians take polls to see where the voters stand, then change their own positions to match those of the voters.  While it is true that a few unscrupulous politicians have done just that, the vast majority use polling in a completely different (and much more ethical) way.

The Best Polling Advice I Can Give

The number one piece of polling advice I can give you is – hire a pollster.  If at all possible, your best bet for getting reliable polls done is to hire a respected political polling firm to design and implement your polls for you.  Of course, for many campaigns, the cost of professional polling is just too great, and that’s ok – despite what some consultants will tell you, you can conduct your own polls in-house with a good degree of reliability.  If you’re doing the poll in-house, this section will give you a step-by-step guide to creating and executing your polls.  If you’re outsourcing to a professional firm, read through this section anyway – you’ll get a good overview of polling and be better equipped to hire a pollster and implement his or her advice.

Guidelines for Volunteers

If your campaign will be doing the polling, there are several things you should keep in mind:


Reliable poll results rely on professional interviewing.  You must closely supervise the volunteers who are conducting your poll.  Often, though they mean well, they may “skew” their questions because they support you.  I’ve seen volunteers get disgusted with interviewees who don’t support the candidate, and others who ask questions in a way that implies what answer the person should give.  Avoid these unreliable results by closely supervising your team.


Your polling operation must be well organized so that you can get the job done in a reasonable amount of time.  Remember – making calls and asking questions takes lots of time.  In order to do the job efficiently, one person should be in charge of the polling operation, and he or she should have plenty of help.

But Don’t Overload

If there’s one activity that can wear volunteers down, it’s making polling calls.  Don’t overwork your volunteers or let them feel “beat-up” by the campaign.  You’ll need their vigor and energy later in the campaign.  Keep your polling volunteers motivated by limiting the amount of work they do (one night per week of poll calls is about the most any volunteer can take) and by offering incentives like pizza parties, nights at the movies, and a relaxed (but still supervised) atmosphere.


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