Political canvassing techniques
In any election campaign it is likely that political canvassing will play a part, whether this is done door-to-door or just out on the street. The advantages of doing canvassing are both direct and indirect.
Direct benefits of canvassing include:
- The opportunity to convince voters to come out and vote for the candidate/issue
- An average 8% increase in voter turnout
- Increased credibility for the candidate or the campaign
- Facilitates GOTV efforts on election day
However, the indirect benefits of canvassing can be even more important. Canvassing cannot be successfully done without also:
- Building a grassroots team
- Getting regular, unfiltered feedback from voters
- Solidifying core voters
- Improving organizational structure including communication tools
What you will need to canvass
- A comfortable pair of shoes
- Some water and food if you are going out for a long canvass
- A small bag for materials
- A positive attitude
- Your phone
Most canvassers have a walk-list or ‘turf’ to navigate and they will want to do that as painlessly as possible. Usually canvassers or canvass teams will assemble at the first point on the canvass and navigate in a circular route back to that point. That might mean going up one side a street and coming back down the opposite side or it might mean going street by street in a coordinated way to cover all streets in a housing estate for example. Alternatives to this would be the fan-model where all canvassers spread out to cover the turf and when they have reached the extent of that turf they turn back and reassemble at the starting point. Finally, some canvass routes can be linear with a named finish point at the other side of the turf, perhaps at a public transport hub.
Whichever way it is set up canvassers should use both map and list views of their canvass route to help them to navigate and to avoid having to go back on missed houses.
From a field campaign managers point of view, setting up turfs and canvass routes can be done very simply through canvassing applications like Ecanvasser where a filter is applied to the voter database based on a certain number of streets, or by precinct, or simply by drawing a lasso turf on the voter map. If a canvassing software isn’t being used then it is possible to export walk-lists from an electoral register and hand these lists out to canvassers to fill out with pen and paper.
Canvasser security is very important and there should be a record kept of who is canvassing, where and when they are expected back. A central hub of communication should also be set up, whether that is a Whatsapp group or a field director making sure everyone is accounted for by phone.
Ensure everyone has charged their phones and has phone coverage in the area.
Ensure canvassers have any additional equipment in order to stay safe, such as high visibility vests (if it is a busy traffic area or the light is not good).
Ensure everyone has any necessary identification or licenses for doing canvassing as required by law.
Door to door technique
- Think about using two canvassers, so one person can input data without breaking the flow of the canvass
- Use a mobile device, connected to a central voter database, to capture information from voters, rather than doing data entry after the canvass. (oh hey, that’s exactly what Ecanvasser does!)
- If you encounter a supporter who pledges to vote for your campaign, then drive this home by setting up a ‘voting plan’ with this person. A voting plan means getting this person to visualize how they are going to vote on the day in question. This is proven to increase voter turnout significantly
- Use open-ended questions to get voters to engage with you
- Have a structure to the canvass in your head with opening lines, set questions and a time frame that you are sticking to
- Always be polite, even if you get a bad reception and remember to thank people for their time
If you are using canvassing apps then data entry is taken care of. If you are using pen and paper then you will want to ensure the data captured is in a formal structure such as multiple choice answers. All of this data should be entered as soon as possible after the canvass. If you are capturing free-text responses from voters, it is a good idea to have set hashtags that can be attached to responses that will form a framework. For example, if you have #education and #immigration as possible trending issues then you can tag those to the end of any responses that fall within those areas. The campaign team can then start to see these issues trending over the course of a few weeks of canvassing and respond to those concerns by amending campaign messaging.
After they've been canvassed
Once voters have been canvassed you can set up segments of voters based on trending hashtags, on survey responses, or based on pledges to vote. Send targeted emails (if you get their email at the door) or re-canvass these voters in the days and weeks following the initial canvass.
Build a list of pledged voters for follow up GOTV ops on election day and ensure the ‘voting plan’ they committed to happens.
Political Canvassing Tips
- Be polite
- Capture data efficiently and use technology where possible to make this easier
- Plan your walk-route in advance - it’s easy to get lost on a route!