Before, during, and since college, I have held a number of jobs in various organizations, some political and some not. Besides the ones I’ve mentioned earlier, just to rattle off a few more: I’ve worked in a law office, I was a tour guide at the home of James Monroe, and I was a servant of the federal government during the 2000 Census. Just the other day I just spoke to a 2010 Census taker. My, where does the time go? Ah, but one job though that I rarely discuss, especially to potential employers, was my time as a political pollster.
Leading up to this moment in time, I developed quite an interest in political polling. During my later years at William & Mary, I took a class on the subject taught by the often hyper-enthusiastic Professor Rapport. Regressing further, back in high school, I wrote and conducted two polls among my classmates. The first concerned politics and the second was about religion. Although my results have long since disappeared, I seem to recall that most of the students polled were rather conservative, like me. Of course, only a select few were really vocal on topic. I think it would be very interesting to see if these former classmates retained their views or if they had changed over time. Then again, I did and still do wonder if at that age (freshmen and sophomore) have most folks formed their own political and religious convictions or are they merely a reflection or rejection of their parents’ ideology? In either case, I would expect the current crop of students at Harrisonburg High School to be far more liberal than those fifteen years removed.
Let me tell you that polling is not a passive sport nor is it a job for the introvert. You must actively engage your subjects and ask them probing questions. Given that some people are secretive about their own political feelings, you must, in a timely fashion, convince them to share their thoughts with you, a perfect stranger. This effort is particularly challenging when done in real time, either face-to-face or via the telephone. At all moments you must be polite but firm, professional but understanding. Depending on the situation, polling can be the most frustrating but also the most fascinating work available in politics today.
Slipping back to my personal story, since graduation, I had been itching to work in politics, to put my degree to some use. Unfortunately, up until then, my efforts had been for naught. I literally papered Washington D.C. with my resume, knocking on the door of every Republican politician and organization. I got a couple of calls back from some people like Senator Warner’s office. I dashed to a few interviews with Senator Kyl, Representative Goodlatte, and the Department of Agriculture…but nothing panned out. As you can imagine, when I heard about the prospect of working in political polling, I jumped at the chance. Best of all, it was in the nearby city of Charlottesville. My chance had come! I didn’t take the time to learn more and so I eagerly accepted a position as a political pollster. How naïve. At the time, I was living and working in the city of Harrisonburg, so I commuted across the mountain for a couple of months until I relocated to the Charlottesville/Albemarle County area.
So began my employment with Cooper & Secrest. Some of you have heard of this organization and are already groaning, though most of you have likely not. Given the title of the article, I would expect you can guess, at least in part, how this story will unfold. Therefore, I hope you’ll join me for part 2 as we delve deeper into this chapter of my political life.