Hannah Perkin, ALDC Regional Development Officer for the South East, explains why surveys are so important, how to get the most out of them and why we should take advantage of the summer months to engage with residents.
There is no better time to go and knock on doors than the summer time. The weather is better, people are happier to have their doors open for a while to chat to you, some will be out in their front gardens and the evenings are lighter meaning more canvassing time!
Surveys are a fantastic way to establish you and your team as hard-working, locally focussed and approachable. They are also a really great tool to gather casework and to hear about the kinds of issues that your residents would like you to campaign on.
At ALDC we often speak about the “messaging narrative”. In that model the start of every narrative should be “we hear you”. In Faversham we have used surveys yearly to keep on top of community issues and let our residents know that we are listening to them and valuing local voices. In 2020 our summer survey went live and we spoke to many residents about what was important to them. One of the key issues raised was the perception that crime and anti-social behaviour in Faversham was rising. As a result of that we were able to respond by bringing a motion to the Town Council to commission some independent research by a local crime specialist to determine what crime and anti-social behaviour is being committed in Faversham and what the Town Council can do to prevent it. This has led to community workshops and real action which we are keeping the residents up to date on.
In Guildford the local party are currently running a cost of living survey to speak to residents about how they are being impacted . Other Lib Dem groups are running surveys on farming, NHS waiting times and the environment. Picking up national issues and finding out how their local communities have been impacted.
Surveys are also a really good tool for finding out residents political views and voting intention. This is really important for determining who you should be targeting in your polling day operation, it will identify who the third party voters might be for your squeeze messaging and for finding out who leans towards our main opposition. This is all really helpful for targeting literature and saving ourselves and our activist valuable time as we get closer to election day. Surveys are also helpful for collecting phone numbers and emails which will help you to keep in contact with your residents on the issues that they care about and to let them know what you are doing about them .
Using a mixture of questions in your survey can help get some really good information , including a box for freestyle comments, putting a question in to illustrate you message, for example “should the council give free dogs to everyone?” when you have a free dogs for all policy and importantly “would you like to volunteer with our team?”
Typically, response rates to Surveys are around 5% so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get hundreds of replies. You can maximise the amount you get back by knocking on doors with your survey and going back to collect it later on (knock and drop), adding a freepost envelope and providing an online version.
Summer surveys are an excellent canvassing tool. They give you ready made questions on the doorsteps meaning for new canvassers that are a little nervous about breaking the ice for the first time on doorsteps can build their confidence. They can be used by both elected Councillors and by campaigners and are great for areas that we haven’t spoken to for a while or at all. Whilst the sun is out (remember sun safety please) and the evenings are light, get a survey and go and chat to your residents. Nothing beats canvassing for building those important community relationships.
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