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Canvassers could be salespeople or interviewers who survey the public to gather or distribute information, collect data, solicit donations or sell merchandise. They work for political organizations, government agencies, charities, private companies, market research firms and nonprofit groups. Canvassing requires contact with the public, so a successful canvasser must enjoy relating to others and be skilled in human relations.
A canvasser initiates contact with the public, collecting information by phone or in person, going from door to door or stationed at a mall or street corner. He polls public opinion and reports the results. Depending on the employer, the canvasser surveys members of the public on political candidates, products or issues. The canvasser explains the purpose of the survey to his interviewee and asks questions according to his instructions in order to obtain specific information. Canvassers also may ask for donations or for signatures on petitions supporting a cause.
Political canvassers working for a campaign, specific political party, candidate, piece of legislation, or fundraiser survey the electorate in order to determine public opinion and to predict future outcomes. Canvassers are also hired to educate the public about issues and problems and to try to persuade voters to endorse a particular candidate. The canvasser may also enlist new members for the campaign or persuade people to donate to the campaign fund. When promoting products or services, the canvasser can explain and demonstrate those products, highlighting their benefits.
Skills and Qualifications
Some employers provide their canvassers with lists of contacts, while others expect canvassers to supply their own. In general, the job requires the ability to relate to people in a friendly, trustworthy and professional manner. Employers may have specific educational and background qualifications for their canvassers, such as a high school diploma. Some jobs may require previous experience in telephone or door-to-door canvassing or in other forms of sales. Interest in the issues is valuable in working for political parties or special causes. Interviewing requires active listening on the part of the canvasser, who must be attentive to the speaker. The interviewer must speak clearly to his interviewee and be thorough and accurate in recording the results. Social perceptiveness -- the ability to recognize others’ reactions -- is valuable in administering surveys.
A canvasser can be a volunteer or work full or part time. Political canvassing could be a one-time job directed to a specific candidate or issue, while market research canvassing jobs are often full time. No specific wage information is available for canvassers. However, a primary function of canvassers is interviewing the public. According to O*Net On Line, the description of "Interviewers" -- "interview persons by telephone, mail, in person or by other means" -- also applies to the work of canvassers, and the median wage for an interviewer in 2013 was $14.56 hourly and $30,270 annually.
As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.