January 19, 2023
Winning a political race is a hard process that requires a holistic approach to your campaign strategy and tactics. As a campaign officer, you must carefully plan and select the channels that will help you reach your political goals and optimally use available resources.
One of the most commonly used tactics in political campaigns is canvassing. If you are starting with your political career or are interested in volunteering as a canvasser, this article is a great starting point. So let’s dive in and check out what canvassing is, how it works, and why it is important to every political campaign.
Canvassing is a method of reaching out to individuals in a specific area to gather information or support for a particular cause, campaign, or organization. Canvassers provide information, answer questions, and persuade residents to take action, such as signing a petition, joining a campaign, or voting for a candidate or program.
Political canvassing methods (i.e., voter contact methods) include door-to-door campaigning, phone banking, direct mail and reaching out through digital platforms. And such canvassing campaigns can be applied to many political efforts, from campaign volunteer recruitment and grassroots organizing to persuasion tactics and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. When used properly, canvassing techniques can successfully drive voter mobilization and be the difference between winning and losing on election day.
To win a political campaign, your candidate needs more votes than your opponent. Canvassing is how political campaigns identify, persuade and mobilize voters to support their candidate. Better canvassing strategies and successful voter contact methods mean more voters supporting your candidate come election day.
There are many ways to utilize political canvassing so let’s look at the most common use cases.
When considering the voter journey throughout a campaign, it’s easy to see how canvassing can be advantageous in guiding that path.
The first question canvassing can help answer: how many people in this area may vote for our candidate? This is a matter of voter identification and long-term canvassing data analysis. Even determining an individual’s party affiliation can be the first step in a larger canvassing campaign.
And how do we determine if an individual will or will not vote for our candidate, is or is not affiliated with our party? We ask them! Canvassing, in all its forms, is great for this. We can speak to voters at their homes with door-to-door canvassing, over the phone with volunteer-run phone banks, and even send out simple surveys via texts and emails.
After initial voter identification, campaigns need to persuade undecided voters to vote for their candidate and support their campaign. Persuasion tactics typically require longer conversations with a good amount of back and forth. Some persuasion can be achieved by highlighting popular issues in direct mail and emails. But when persuading individual voters, the person-to-person conversations achieved via door-to-door canvassing and phone banking are the most effective.
After defining the universe of guaranteed and likely voters, the second big milestone is mobilizing voters to take action and vote.
Commonly known as the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) phase of the campaign, this phase is critical because it’s not enough for individuals to voice their support, volunteer, or donate. Ultimately, the voters need to vote above all else!
GOTV efforts are focused on contacting guaranteed and likely voters to remind them of when they can vote, where they can vote, and how they can vote. Getting people to vote often changes from state to state and city to city. So it’s important never to take a voting block’s knowledge for granted and to always over-inform your supporters. It is better for them to have the information and not need it than not have it.
Phone calls and texts are the easiest and fastest way to communicate voting information to many voters. And after someone has voted, you can remove them from the calling and texting campaigns and focus your attention on the outstanding voters. You effectively have a long checklist of people you need to vote for to win the election, and political canvassing tactics like phone banking and texting are how we quickly and efficiently move down that checklist.
Voter mobilization efforts typically start at the very beginning of the campaign when we canvass to determine likely voters and end when we’ve convinced everyone we can, and they’ve all successfully voted.
Political canvassing, in all its forms, can guide voters through this process from start to finish.
The first thing you want to do before starting your canvassing activities is to break down the most important phases in the process. We suggest starting with data, understanding your audience, and having a solid plan.
Yes, but not the way you might think. Talking person-to-person is always the most effective way to engage voters and garner support. And door-to-door canvassing and phone banking are the best ways to speak to individual voters one-on-one and can be used effectively for all campaign phases.
Choosing which canvassing method to employ comes down to a logistical question of time and resources.
Do you have enough time to walk through a neighborhood and knock on every voter’s door? If yes, then door-to-door canvassing is the way to go. If not, the faster approach would be to have volunteers contact voters via phone banking. But what if you don’t have enough volunteers on staff to support a phone banking campaign? Then broadcasting messages via texts, emails, and direct mail may be the better approach.
The state of your campaign determines which canvassing methods you utilize more than voter demographics. Effective canvassing campaigns take time, energy, and money. All of which are finite resources that need to be used responsibly.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful campaign, especially when you plan to include canvassing activities. Again, consider the purpose of canvassing, which is to identify, persuade and mobilize voters. To reach these goals, you must talk to all voters about personal matters that affect them daily. And who better to relate to a voter than a fellow voter? That is what volunteers are, after all, engaged citizens with the time and inclination to support your campaign.
Without volunteers, voter outreach efforts would be sterile, out-of-touch marketing campaigns lacking real human empathy. Volunteers are what make voter persuasion and engagement efforts personal. And nothing drives voter turnout more than individual interests.
Canvassing is a great field tactic that works, and we strongly suggest using canvassing for every type of political campaign.
First, understand that canvassing is any coordinated effort to contact and persuade voters. Then, think about different canvassing strategies and the forms that make sense to your campaign. At the end of the day, you need to commit your campaign resources towards the same goal: a vote total of 50% +1.
Of all the canvassing strategies, phone banking is one of the most cost-effective ways to talk to an infinite number of voters. And the advent of predictive dialers, like HubDialer, has automated and streamlined this process to be an extremely efficient tool for voter outreach. Sign up for a free trial today and personalize your campaign conversations.