My first paying job, following a three-day stint in door-to-door sales, was as a phone poller for the BC Liberals in the '96 provincial election. I don't know how commonly parties do this, but they basically hired just about anyone who applied to work at the job for minimum wage. The party contracted the work out to an ad agency, which hired the pollers, who worked on a floor of a Howe Street office building that was borrowed / rented from the forestry company Macmillan Bloedel.
The pollers were people from across the political spectrum. Some were apolitical, some supported the Liberals, some the NDP, some the Greens (I was leaning NDP but ended up voting Green), and some supported the PDA, the vanity party of former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson.
We called people across the province from this one central location. I suspect this might be a common practice, as last May I received a call asking if I was planning to vote for the NDP candidate in a riding on the other side of the province. But as a practice, it has its drawbacks. We appeared to be duplicating volunteer efforts that were taking place at the local level, we knew nothing about the candidates we were calling on behalf of, and many or even most of us didn't particularly want the Liberals to win.
There wasn't much in the way of supervision, either, so if I can put it tactfully, some people were perhaps not entirely diligent in doing their jobs professionally or recording information accurately (with motives ranging from simple laziness to reflexive rebelliousness to active subversion), although I did see one person get fired for using the phone too much for her own personal use.
As it was, the race turned out to be extremely close, with the BC Liberals getting 3% more of the popular vote than the NDP, but with the NDP winning several seats by a very narrow margin to end up with one seat more than a bare majority. In my more grandiose moments, I like to think that I played a role in the operation that (unintentionally) lost the Liberals the election. But then I think that (a) this doesn't reflect very well on my work skills, and (b) it means I'm indirectly responsible for Glen Clark's three-year reign of error, so I wisely keep quiet (most of the time).
It was a fascinating job. Mainly, I got a sense of the deep antipathy toward both the incumbent and opposition parties, and their leaders in particular, and of how evenly divided people were about who was the most odious. Still, if I were running an operation like that, I think I'd at least try to verify that the people I was hiring were party supporters.
[ 26 November 2005: Message edited by: obscurantist ]