Canvassing is not what it used to be.
Don’t wait till Easter – make a start now.
There is strong evidence that just being called on by someone from a political party makes a voter more likely to turn out to vote and to vote for that party. This trend is so strong that in some areas people have reported that after analysing marked registers, the turnout of people canvassed as “Non-voters” is actually higher than turnout across the ward in general!
Meeting people face to face also gives you the best opportunity to find out what issues are concerning them. You can then ensure that your campaign messages are based on issues that are relevant to local people. Face to face contact is the only way you will get information about how well your campaign is going and the impact your, and your opponent’s, campaign messages are having.
We want as many people as possible to take part in election campaigns. These days the term ‘canvassing’ no longer explains to the person who has never done it before what we are trying to achieve.
A useful way to explain to the new member of your team how Voter Identification or canvassing fits into the election campaign is:
We contact voters to gauge the level of our support relative to that of the other parties, and we need to get accurate information from them to use later in the election campaign to target specific messages at them.
Outside an election campaign you can add that we speak to voters to listen to what they say and find out what issues are important to them.
We like to use the term Voter ID rather than canvassing. Voter ID has a number of benefits over canvassing for the modern election campaign.
- Is more user-friendly for new members of your team
- Is quick & easy
- Can get data using a variety of methods – phone, doorstep, residents’ surveys, websites/e-mail
- Goes on all-year-round, not just during an election campaign
The impression people have of canvassing
- It’s about explaining party policy in detail to people I’ve never met before
- It’s slow & complicated
- It is conducted face to face
- It’s done only at election time
We fear that many people have been put off phoning voters or knocking on their doors because they have preconceived and negative ideas of ‘canvassing’.
Voter Identification is a better way of explaining what the activity actually is in a modern election campaign.
The truth is that most conversations last just 2-3 minutes.
So Voter ID it is.
Why do we do it? 1. To create a list of our supporters (the “shuttleworth”) that on polling day you will knock on their doors to “Get them out to Vote”(GOTV) that is big enough to allow you to win. Getting more of our supporters out to actually vote than the opposition do can allow us to win in areas that “usually” vote Labour or Tory at higher turnout general elections. This is called differential turnout. We can only win on the day if we have the data to work with. Voter identification is exactly what it says – identifying your voters. Think of the campaign as one giant list building exercise. The goal being to compose a big enough list of registered voters who, if they go out and vote for your candidate on polling day, they will win. It is not an attempt to convert voters to support us, that’s the job of the literature. It’s about obtaining useful and reliable information.2. So we can target voters more effectively with literature, i.e. Soft Voters: Which party they are intending to support if not us so that Tory voters get the Tory squeeze message and Labour voters get the Labour squeeze message etc.3. To assess how the campaign is going and with this information
a. Switch resources between wards
b. Adapt your campaign plan accordingly – change literature , target different groups. Make campaign decisions – e.g. if 90% of Asian electors when canvassed are supporting us decide to add all identified Asian electors – whether canvassed or not to the shuttleworth for polling day. Other canvassing aims are secondary to these three essential requirements.
Other canvassing aims
1) To find out what problems people have that we can deal with (casework).
2) To find peoples views on local problems – again for casework and campaigning.
3) To conduct more formal surveys of people’s views.
5) To find out what sort of people live where – such as the elderly, disabled, single parents, ethnic groups etc.
4) Recruiting people to the Liberal Democrats
6) Signing people up for postal votes.
7) Finding out who has moved in or out of the ward.
8) For Councillors to get to know people and for people to get to know their Councillors.
9) To inform people of a proposed new development (e.g. road or house building), where personal contact may be better than a leaflet..
10) Getting our supporters on the electoral roll. Now there is a rolling register people can be added through the year.
There will be a different emphasis on these reasons as you go through the year and the election “cycle”
Target – the mountain to climb
How do you know how many identified supporters you’ll need on polling day (the shuttleworth to use the jargon)?
A) canvassed Definites (D’s)
B) canvassed Probables (P’s)
C) soft supporters e.g. from petitions, surveys, casework etc.
D) supporters from previous years records have been re-contacted.
How many votes did the winning candidate in your ward receive in that last comparable election ? For example 1,200 votes.
The turnout may be boosted by the AV referendum but it would be unwise to count on it.
You need to beat that figure on polling day. So you need more than 1200 votes. But the reality is despite your good morning, three knock-ups and phone knocking-up etc. that you will not get all of your supporters out to vote. You need enough on your “shuttleworth” to allow for the those who don’t bother. The more you can rely on your shuttleworth turning out, the lower your figure will need to be.
2011 Target Shuttleworth – ExampleAt the last normal election in the ward the winning candidate received : A votes
Guesstimate from experience of the percentage of our shuttleworth we expect to actually vote =B%
Your target should be A /B
With the figures in our example
A = what the 2007 winner got = 1,200 votes
B = guestimate of shuttleworth turnout = 60%
The target shuttleworth figure is
1200/ 0.6 = 2,000
Plan your Canvass Sessions
You need to work backward from polling day to see how much time you and your team need to commit.
In our example if you aim to get 20 D’s and P’s per canvasser per canvass session and if you had no previous records this would be 100 sessions. This is scary. Between the close of nominations on 4th April and polling day there are 31 days. At one session per day for 25 days you’re going to need 4 canvassers per session. This gives no allowance for breaks etc. It is vital therefore that you persuade a few more helpers, relatives/ supporters to help you canvass. Given the pressures on all groups litttle help is unlikely to come from outside as they will be faced with the same problem themselves.
This is why you should start your Voter ID now and not wait till April!!
It also reminds everybody why we say that you should be spending no more than two minutes on each doorstep if at all possible.
Help the targets
Its not enough to just plan to do just enough to win your ward. Consider the overall strategy and timetable your help for the borough targets as well.
When looking at Old Data
In this set of elections this is one of the most important considerations. This year (2011) we are in a completely different political environment EVERYONE should be recanvassed. Have you used switch analysis in EARS to see if your historic record LD definites and probs are sticking with you? What’s the proportion of definites to probables. These are the people you are going to be running around to on polling day – if you’re not certain they’re going to vote don’t put them down as definites
revised 15/2/2011 JB