Gaining Interview Access to Political Party Elites


Persuading political party elites such as legislators and political staff to agree to a research interview is difficult. One successful technique to get past gatekeepers and increase willingness to participate in an interview is to work with an intermediary. This case study demonstrates that a senior colleague of potential interview participants can play a formidable role in establishing trustworthy connections and vouching for the main researcher. The research method was successfully used to collect insider information about an agreement to merge two major Canadian political parties. The newly constituted Conservative Party went on to form government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who had a controlling communications style. Years later, Harper’s former campaign manager agreed to my request to help recruit interview participants for a research study of the party merger that they collectively negotiated. Consequently, most of the senior political personnel involved with the merger negotiations agreed to be interviewed. Moreover, they spoke freely about the experience. While vouching can be a successful technique, it must be supplemented with more random ways of securing interviews. The case study also features a concrete example of media manipulation and why caution is warranted when relying on news reports for political research.

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