Phone banking is a task that interns and volunteers alike dread, either after making 300 calls and not talking to anyone, or having ten different people shout at you to stop calling, phone banking is rarely a task that one would jump at the opportunity to do. My internship was no different, when my supervisor would announce the time to phone bank all the interns would do a slight moan, or conveniently decide to take their lunch break. However, there are some great differences between phone banking for congressional candidate versus a presidential candidate. While in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina for presidential candidates, the phone banking was not only targeted mainly to people who were of the same political affiliation, but also, from my experience, it was only pertinent during the one to two weeks before the primary or caucus. This type of phone banking is the minor leagues. Congressional phone banking is much more aggressive and certainly more frequent.
Truthfully, I never fully knew whether or not phone banking and canvassing were effective when the answer or connection rates were so low. However, my boss was always ready help and correct us if we used slightly presumptive wording, and was constantly thinking of ways in which we could respond to different scenarios. It was hard for me to understand why he was so nit picky about our language when more than eighty percent of the time we were not even talking to anyone. But this summer I learned that, the twenty, ten or even five percent that picks-up matters.
When I began working, at the end of May, for a congressional campaign of a no-name democrat in a republican leaning district, the phone banking had just begun at the beginning of the month. On my first day phone banking, I only talked to five people, out of the one hundred and fifty I called, and every single one of them hung up, unwilling to answer my survey. I went home that day feeling drained, slightly defeated and vowing to not phone bank for a couple days.
A few days later, I returned to the phones with fewer connection rates but was at least able to talk to people. It was a few weeks into my internship that I finally made the connection of why phone banking was so important. By this time I had made countless calls, some successful and others not so much, but it was during one call that lasted fifteen minutes, in which I had successfully convinced a Republican woman to vote Democratic. She explained that she was ready for change, and that though Republican her views did not line up with that of the current congressmen. This sentiment was particularly impactful for me as I realized that as congressional elections go uncontested, the voice of the people is often lost. Although I was happy that I was able to change her mind, what I learned about phone banking is that if you make enough calls and actually talk to people, the sentiment of the community is not always reflected in local governance.