How can I win votes without annoying people?
September 4, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Which has been a more satisfying and productive use of your time, phone banking or door-to-door canvassing? Which do you feel is less intrusive?

I've always given what little money I can to groups I support, political and otherwise. But now I've decided it is time to do something more to help Obama defeat McCain. Both and MoveOn encourage me to do door to door and/or phone banking. However I'm the type of person who doesn't answer the door unless I'm expecting someone and doesn't answer the phone if I don't know the number. I find solicitations of any variety terribly annoying, yet here I am considering doing just that.

When doing these activities what is your perception of the ratio of annoyed people to interested people? When going door to door do you spend more time 'preaching to the choir' or having actual discussions with undecided voters? I'm aware that both groups attempt to target only undecided voters but I'm skeptical of how many undecided are really just say they're undecided because it seems less rude than saying, "it's none of your business."
posted by J-Garr to Law & Government (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm aware that both groups attempt to target only undecided voters but I'm skeptical of how many undecided are really just say they're undecided because it seems less rude than saying, "it's none of your business."

Actually, that's not quite true. A huge part of both - phone banking in particular - is getting hold of people you expect to vote for your guy, and reminding/encouraging them to actually get out and do so.

The "Ground game" is about convincing undecideds, yes, but the importance of that, frankly, is dwarfed by how efforts to register and then turn out to vote people who support your candidate.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:35 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

When doing these activities what is your perception of the ratio of annoyed people to interested people?

Depends on who you're calling and when, I think. I did some phone call polling (checking to see who registered Democrats were going to vote for) in some battleground states during the primaries, and boy, those people were sick and tired of being bothered. I would think calling people who had already committed to vote for your candidate might feel a little friendlier.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:41 PM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Phone banking is more efficient, because you can reach more people. But door-to-door is more effective, in my opinion.

For the record, I've walked in Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Texas and phone banked for Oklahoma, Texas, and New Hampshire.

All that said, if you do go door to door, don't wear an orange hat.
posted by Pants! at 12:53 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I worked for the DNC in 2006 and did both.

Door-to-door included two parts: 1.) going into friendly neighborhoods and enclaves and 2.) street-corner work where the point was to show that the party was out in force. Phone banking was auto dialing a list of known supporters and asking for money. It was at times very brutal work. I did personally raise $7,000 for the DNC in about eight weeks, which is pretty cool - that's more money than I could have given on my own, the work also convinced me that Clinton would not be the 2008 nominee because I talked to so many Democrats who were fundamentally opposed to her - so you learn little things like that too.

Fund raising is the point of it all and at the end of a long day it really came down to how much money you could bring in. Some people were absolutely amazing at getting people to contribute.

If you really want to get involved I suggest you work directly with a local campaign office, preferably with a local politician who more likely needs a warm body to help organize rather than some foot soldiers to schlep through town ringing doorbells during dinner time and asking for a handout...
posted by wfrgms at 1:00 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Obama campaign itself never asks volunteers to ask for money at the doors, though I can't speak to what MoveOn asks people to do. They would rather have someone go out and canvass than come to the office and phonebank (though both are very much appreciated). A face to face contact is more effective than over the phone. If you're uncomfortable with doing either, there are other things you can do to help out like data entry, answering the phone at the office front desk, calling volunteers to remind them to come in for their shifts, cooking meals for harried staff and volunteers. Go to your nearest Obama office and say you want to help and I'm sure they can find something for you.
posted by fancypants at 1:20 PM on September 4, 2008

I distributed door hangers and made get-out-the-vote phone calls for a mayoral candidate I supported in San Francisco. The people I called were very cranky about having gotten so many phone calls from the campaign. One told me I was the fifth person to calll and he would vote against the candidate if he heard from us again.
posted by kristi at 1:57 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: I've doorknocked a lot.
I have to say it's by far and away the most productive use of time I've spent working for a political party. It's awesome when it's done right. Knocking on people's doors for votes, if you believe in what you're doing, is fun, satisfying, and surprisingly easy. Compared to cold-calling in a room full of telephones, which I've done as a job and hated so much I got fired in a fortnight, doorknocking is a warm spring breeze.
It's great because you get reminded, door after door, just how nice people are. We spend so much time and energy at work and on the internet and elsewhere dealing with arseholes that we forget how fundamentally pleasant the vast majority of the non-arsehole population is. Yes, people like to talk about politics to canvassers, and yes, it does make a difference, especially if, as wfrgms says, you work directly with a local candidate.
Even when you encounter jerks---and you will---you'll get some very funny stories you can share with your comrades. I don't think I can beat one of my friends, who knocked on a door to be opened by a man in BDSM gear, winding up being invited to a three-way (she declined), but perhaps you'll get an even better story you can dine out on.
So the moral of the story is: it's not annoying people. It's politics, and people love it.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:00 PM on September 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I do this shit about 50 hours a week.

Gama is right, completely. Do it. Door is where the awesome lies.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:50 PM on September 4, 2008

I'd prefer neither, but given a choice the phone would be less intrusive. I'm in the top floor of a low-rise building, so if the doorbell rings, I need to run down several flights of stairs, only to find it's someone that wants money, then go all the way back up and be irritated for a while. At least with the phone I can hang-up.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:21 PM on September 4, 2008

i've done a lot of both, and would take canvassing over phone work all the time--even when the weather is bad. fiasco is correct--people are a lot nicer in person.
posted by lester at 5:26 PM on September 4, 2008

Door to door, absolutely. Phone banking tends to feel like telemarketing to people, and most people don't even answer their phone. When they hear that you're calling, they feel like you're asking for money.

Door to door, on the other hand, doesn't annoy nearly as many people. A lot of people get giddy and excited that someone came to their door to ask for their vote, even if they're in the other party. You generally mention, "And would you like to make a contribution?" afterwards, and they're much more willing to do so since you came all that way then.

You get some nasty people going door to door, but it's not that bad. All they do is gruffly mutter a few sentences and shut the door. People are more cavalier about being assholes on the phone, and they're more inclined to talk you ear off too, neither of which is a good use of time.
posted by Nattie at 5:55 PM on September 4, 2008

They are both really useful to campaigns and volunteers are needed to do both. I have done both, and I would honestly say, don't worry so much about how effective the strategy is, but think about what you are more comfortable doing. Knocking can be pretty physically draining--can you be on your feet for that long? Phone banking can be less stressful for socially anxious people, but you run the risk of calling a number and asking for a dead guy. Personally, I used to be afraid of canvassing and would volunteer to phone bank near the election date to remind people to go vote, but I've gotten a lot better at talking to strangers in person (and I am less obese than I used to be) so at this point in my life, I would choose to door knock.
posted by Tesseractive at 8:31 PM on September 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the info. I think I'll go to the local campaign HQ to talk to the folks there and see what they need. I'd much rather cook food for volunteers or do other tasks that don't involve calling or knocking. Maybe they'll convince me its worth it and I'll give it a try.
posted by J-Garr at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2008

Late input here.

Thinking in terms of gradations of annoyance isn't the best way of going about this in my opinion. What you're doing is in the most simple form political marketing. All marketing is annoying. the more annoying the more effective, think head-on. More importantly, you're marketing something especially difficult that people don't get a direct benefit from without thinking through it for more than 10 minutes, which most people won't come close to doing.

So, really you're going to annoy people if you're doing your job well. If you don't engage/annoy the public, then they will not vote. There is ample research to back this up. That doesn't mean you badger them, but you need to contact them. You may find door-to-door solicitations annoying and many of them are. But a lot of folks appreciate a neighbor respectfully approaching them about the future of our nation either in person or on the phone.

Some folks will be like you and not pick up the phone or answer the door, but they'll listen to the message you leave or check that piece of lit you leave on their doorstep. Some may slam the door in your face or hang up on you. In fact, I guarantee that will happen. But those people are assholes. They're the same people who curse at waitresses and probably kick their dogs when life doesn't go their way. Assholes are everywhere and there's nothing you can do to avoid them (ever worked in the service industry, you know what I mean). Don't let them get you down.

So now the question goes to which form of voter contact is most effective. Canvassing is, hands down. If done properly and targeted and done in an efficient target-rich neighborhood, it will be just as as efficient as phone banking any many times more effective. Donald Green out of Princeton has done a few studies on this topic to back that claim.

So, go door to door. Annoy people into voting and know that you're doing the lord's work annoying them.
posted by willie11 at 7:22 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

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