What can I do to win the election for my candidate?
September 26, 2008 2:52 PM   Subscribe

To the undecideds, or those who believe they can put themselves in the undecided's shoes: What might persuade you towards a particular candidate, particularly in the form of anything a volunteer might be able to do? Would someone coming to your door help, or hurt? Phone calls? Voter registration campaigns, or offers of rides to the polls? Signs in yards and clever bumper stickers? Blog posts? Emailing everyone I know with video clips and transcripts? What can be done to positively affect your decision in the presidential election? In short, how might I, as a volunteer, most effectively turn you into decided for my candidate.

(Note, if there's no way at all anyone or anything can change your mind, you're not undecided, but it is valid to say no volunteer could do anything to possibly affect your decision in any positive way.)
posted by davebug to Law & Government (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Emailing everyone I know with video clips and transcripts?

I'm not undecided, but I have an acquaintance who does it and it drives me nuts and makes me almost want to defect to the other candidate. Spam is never, ever justified. For me, the only way to approach such things is to have a respectful conversation where you listen to the concerns of the other person and address them. Phone calls might work, maybe. But anything else is sort of invasive (email bombing), selfish (offering rides to the polls, not out of the kindness of your heart but so you can get your guy elected) or irrelevant (signs, bumper stickers).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:10 PM on September 26, 2008

Demonstrating deep and profound understanding of, and sympathy with, those who believe differently. Both by listening, and by addressing the unspoken fears of the other camp.
posted by amtho at 3:13 PM on September 26, 2008

From my husband's experience with campaigns over the years, he thinks the most effective method is always door-to-door.
posted by konolia at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I want is for zealots to leave me alone. I welcome visits/calls/junkmail from campaigns with as much enthusiasm as visits from the Jehovah's Witnesses.

No, I don't want a copy of ObamaWatchtower. Thanks for the thought, now go away.
posted by Class Goat at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

I am not an undecided, but I LOATHE being "sold to" in general. I would delete solictation e-mails, hang up on messages from The Candidate or The Candidate's People, anything actively being pushed upon me while I am just minding my own business and living life. And I have always wondered what the point of campaign crap (stickers, buttons, signs, whatever) is. I doubt that convinces anyone, it just shows what club you are a member of.

Now, on the other hand, if I was some noob who didn't know what was going on and asked you, "What about X Candidate?", THEN give your speech, IF ASKED. If they have a question or a favorite issue, talk to them about that IF THEY ASK.

But for the love of god, don't ram Candidate X (or whatever you're selling) down someone's throat when they are just going to the market and want to leave without having a guy with a clipboard in their face. Offer your product if asked. If they don't ask, they don't want to know today. Sell to someone who actively sought out your product to ask about.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:43 PM on September 26, 2008

I have never had a one-to-one interaction with a campaign volunteer that did not leave me disliking their candidate more than when it started (and I mean this for both people I was supporting, and people I was not supporting).
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:09 PM on September 26, 2008

The signs, buttons and bumper stickers have a slight subliminal effect. Humans are social and tend to be swayed by the opinions of the crowd. The advantage of wearing a button is that it may prompt comments, and give you a chance to say why you support your candidate. Lettrs to the editor may help, as well.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Evidently, the best way to convince voters is to knock on doors. According to fivethirtyeight, for every twelve voters you talk to in this way, one will vote who wouldn't have otherwise.
posted by zazerr at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2008

For me, the only way to approach such things is to have a respectful conversation where you listen to the concerns of the other person and address them.

Too true. If you're not willing to question/change your own beliefs, then it's poor form to engage with someone only in the interest of having them question/change theirs.

I also second/third/fourth all negativity in regard to cold-calling. My basic response when cold-called is always pretty much the same. "I am not interested in being solicited on the phone. It's an invasion of my privacy. If anyone from your party ever contacts me again in this regard, I guarantee I will not vote for your candidate."

Door to door I don't mind so much. At least it requires a little effort.
posted by philip-random at 4:19 PM on September 26, 2008

There was an interesting article in the Toronto Star about this recently.

An excerpt: Through the consulting firm Barometrics Research, he did a study of an Ontario riding (which he declined to name for privacy reasons) in the 2004 federal election and found that each lawn sign added nearly 0.7 per cent votes for the candidate. In parts of the riding where the Pennysaver, which contained ads for the candidate, was distributed, the candidate did 2-per-cent better. In neighbourhoods where volunteers dropped leaflets with information on the candidate, there was a 3.2-per-ent increase in votes.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:43 PM on September 26, 2008

Further: I don't want to be converted. Scratch that. I cannot be converted but I can change my mind based on actual information not generated by the campaigns or their surrogates. (Who does that leave?)

For me I have to decide which candidate stinks the least when evaluated against my own personal, private, internal criteria. You can't change that criteria but I can discover (on my own, thanks) things that move the scales a bit one way or the other.

I'm also far less likely to view a candidate favorably after an encounter with a disciple.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:58 PM on September 26, 2008

I am not undecided, but if I were...

First the don'ts

Don't call me, don't e-mail me. Door-to-door is OK because it is the human touch.
But don't be pushy. I might take your literature to read at my leisure.

Big things.

Negativity will just make me negative about your candidate.
So the crap by supporters of both candidates when they take shots at another is a MAJOR MAJOR turn-off. Once you call candidate b a flip-flopper then I am reflexively in candidate b's camp out of spite. Leave the snark for Metafilter.

Don't use code words, catchphrases, or sound bites a million times.
If you are for McCain, and you use "liberal" or "country first" or "maverick" more than once, then I might try to play a variation of Hi, Bob with those phrases. Once a prospective voter hears a phrase that the talk shows and the soundbites have been saying a zillion times he really tunes out. Ditto for Obama with "change."
Bottom line is I will think that behind the rhetoric you've got nothing substantial to say or else you would've said it. It is the politics equivalant of "We leverage supply-chain knowledge for global enterprise-wide..."

Don't tell me about the candidate's "story"
I am sure it is interesting that your candidate walked 12 miles uphill to school after feeding the goats and grew up in the heartland with a legless single mom. So did my dentist, but all I care about with my dentist is how good a dentist he or she is. All I care about your candidate is how good a job he can do in running the country.

Now the dos

Be honest. Say when you don't know. Give me concrete specifically provable data and examples on how your candidate did what he said he did.

Answer curveball questions, ergo, be prepared.

Tell me when your candidate was wrong or changed his mind and how he dealt with it. People are human and even the best executives must reverse course because what was a great idea turned out to be a dumb one. I want a leader to have the cojones to flip-flop once in a while come what may.
posted by xetere at 5:41 PM on September 26, 2008

I, like a lot of people, am undecided because I believe that neither candidate represents me or the best interests of the American people, and if I decide to vote for a major party candidate, I'll be choosing the lesser of two evils. The only thing that you could do to influence my decision is to convince your candidate to change his position substantively on one or more issues such that his position is more in line with mine. Since that is unlikely to happen, all I can ask is that you please not call me, email me, knock on my door, or send me messages in any way that's likely to interrupt my life.

(In other words, nothing that it's remotely likely you'd be able to do will make me more likely to change my mind, and all of the things you've suggested are likely to annoy me.)
posted by decathecting at 8:31 PM on September 26, 2008

Oh, and if you are going to knock on doors/stand on street corners/interact with the public on behalf of your candidate, be prepared. Know what your candidate actually stands for. There's nothing I hate more than a volunteer who seems to be a brainless party shill who knows nothing more about their candidate than what party he's a member of and that they think the other guy is evil. If you want me to register to vote as a member of your party or vote for your candidate, be able to answer questions about him and engage in debate about his positions. I know about the issues and about my beliefs, as do many other undecided voters, and it's annoying to be pandered to by people who don't.
posted by decathecting at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2008

I'm pretty convinced that the benefit of face-to-face communication has very little to do with converting undecideds as it does getting decideds who might otherwise not vote to vote. So if you're trying to help your candidate, it may be more beneficial to help with voter registration drives, working to get people transportation to the polls, and reminding the slackers when the time comes.
posted by ErWenn at 9:01 PM on September 26, 2008

I'm an undecided.. then I make up my mind.. then I waver.. and so on. It'll probably continue that way until I get in the voting booth. I can't speak for anyone else, but, for me, being contacted by volunteers (knocking on my door, calling me on the phone, pamphlets through the mail, email -- ESPECIALLY the first two, though) not only doesn't help me make up my mind, it does hurt the volunteer's cause. I mean, I usually count it as a point against your candidate. I don't appreciate it, and I don't want to talk to you.. no matter whom you're representing. I'm sure there are other people who would prefer not to be contacted, but, when you're calling people or knocking on doors, you never know who will be interested in what you have to say and who won't be. I just wish that the volunteers would be less aggressive, at least. I have had volunteers argue with me when I say that I don't wish to discuss their candidate.

The candidates themselves are the best persuasion. The series of debates starting tonight was one of the best things I've seen (so far). And one of the most helpful. In that respect, I would say blog posts and making transcripts of debates and speeches available would be very helpful for your cause. And, if all mudslinging is left out, that would reflect very well on your campaign. Concentrate on the positive aspects of your candidate, not the negative aspects of the other candidate. I'm as sick of the negativity as I am of the phone calls!

Actually, I'll tell you something I'd like (this slight tangent goes with your 'offers of rides to the polls'). I live with my mother who can't walk or stand long enough to stand in the loooong lines at the polls. I'm not sure if she's going to be able to do it this year, which might mean that she and I won't be voting. I can't drive, so I need her to drive me there. Instead of having masses of volunteers giving me buttons and papers that I just throw right in the trash, it would be nice if they could help lines go quicker or provide help or seating for the elderly or handicapped. But that's my local polling place. I'm sure not all of them are as unfriendly to those who can't stand.

Good luck with your campaign.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:07 PM on September 26, 2008

Best answer: You'll find that the success of any given technique is often situational. I've gotten good results from robo-calls and targeted yard signs, but the context has to be right.

Neighbor-to-neighbor, peer-to-peer outreach are the best, but they really have to be approached on the level of providing a service, in my opinion. The fact that nobody has knocked on Mael Oui's door and explained to her how to apply for an absentee ballot is rather telling. (Mael Oui, call your county Board of Elections and ask how to apply for an absentee ballot--should be easy as pie.)

Service first, talk about your candidate second. That works for me in my neighborhood, where I canvass circles around all the hard-sell Obama dipshits reading scripts because I treat people with respect.

Pretty much anything you'd want to know about this you can find on the GrowDems web site.
posted by halcyon_daze at 11:05 PM on September 26, 2008

Field workers for a candidate exist - at least in my view - to spin my perception of the candidate such that its behavior appears to align with my wishes. I mistrust that; and since the important behaviors (like voting for telecoms immunity) can't be spun after the fact to match my convictions the whole exercise is pointless. Therefore I will go to the voting booth, hold my nose and vote. An attempt by a field worker to convince me that either candidate for President is "good" instead of "less bad than the other guy" just calls into question the candidate's ability to assemble honest organizations and informs me that the field worker probably wouldn't be a good choice for a rock climbing partner.
posted by jet_silver at 5:38 AM on September 27, 2008

Just an aside -- Mael Oui, cases like yours and your mothers are why absentee ballots exist! No need to actually go to the polls :)
posted by kalimac at 5:50 AM on September 27, 2008

Oh really? We had gotten something about absentee ballots in the mail, but it made it seem like you needed a doctor's note or you had to provide an alternate mailing address to qualify. Technically, my Mom would qualify, but I wouldn't .. I just rely on her to get to there. I'll have to google.. Thank you halcyon_daze and kalimac!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:24 PM on September 27, 2008

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