When it comes to political organizing, we know that canvassing is one of the best ways to mobilize voters. Speaking to voters face-to-face is a great way to empower them to take the lead on creating positive change. But in an increasingly digital world, campaigns can also make direct contact with supporters using phone calls, text messages, and social media.
Leveraging multiple forms of political canvassing can help your campaign reach the most voters, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Let’s dive into the answers to the top frequently asked questions about political canvassing:
1. What is political canvassing?
Political canvassing can take many forms, but it’s most commonly known as a campaigning tactic that engages voters directly by going door-to-door and advocating for a particular cause or candidate. By canvassing, volunteers can answer questions in real time and foster personal connections between voters and the campaign at each person’s doorstep.
But the definition of political canvassing has come to encompass much more than just doorknocking. In addition to speaking to voters in person with a pen and clipboard in hand, volunteers can use canvassing apps to build digital relationships with voters via calling and texting.
2. Is canvassing the same as door-to-door knocking?
While the most common form of political canvassing is door-to-door knocking, the COVID-19 pandemic has made forms of digital canvassing more popular as well. On-the-ground efforts like door-to-door knocking remain essential to the success of a campaign, but other forms of outreach like phone calls, text messages, and social media have also become pillars of political canvassing in recent years.
Additionally, more community organizers have been leveraging the power of relational organizing together. Campaigns can use solutions like Friends and Family Messaging alongside in-person canvassing to nurture relationships that volunteers already have in order to effectively campaign for their candidate.
3. Is political canvassing legal?
Political canvassing is legal! While canvassing may sometimes be mistaken for soliciting, it’s important to know that federal law distinguishes political canvassing from commercial solicitation.
In fact, the First Amendment protects political, non-commercial speech, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this right. This means that canvassers do not have to have a permit in order to go door-to-door, and do not have to inform local law enforcement before doing so. While canvassers should respect notices from residents requesting not to be visited by door knockers, political canvassing itself is legal in all 50 states between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
4. Why should my campaign canvass?
Research shows that political canvassing is one of the most effective ways to get the word out about a candidate. Deep canvassing, or building a personal connection with voters in order to gain their support, was the main persuasion tactic used by campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, deep canvassing was a significant factor in helping President Joe Biden win the 2020 election.
Sending text messages to potential supporters and even traditional door-knocking are effective and efficient ways to find emotional connections to voters through real, one-on-one conversations. That’s why many political campaigns benefit from using tools like a political canvassing app that can engage voters both online and offline while capturing important insights into voter sentiment.
5. How can my campaign start canvassing?
With dozens of ways to reach out to voters, where do you start? List Canvassing on Impactive is a great first step. This feature allows volunteers to use relational outreach to create and strengthen relationships with high-priority voters over time. Campaigns can assign volunteers to personally text, call, email, or DM a list of designated voters who may need direct, ongoing outreach by the same volunteer over time. This way, your campaign can canvass voters online with all the personalization of relational outreach!
Political canvassing, both in-person and online, is a great way for political organizers to build connections with voters. Remember: campaigns can’t rally their voters if they don’t communicate with them – prioritize political canvassing for success on Election Day!