The strategy behind political canvassing

When elections are done and over with, many will be relieved to stop having their phones called and doors knocked on by campaigners. But if so many feel annoyed by it, why do politicians canvass?

“The general term for political canvassing is to make efforts to reach out to voters to collect data, on individuals or communities, based on various issues,” said Michael Banerian, vice president of the Oakland University College Republicans.

This data is collected from going door to door, making phone calls, email and many other means of communication. In the past, data was purely based on political issues.

During the 2008 political campaigns, the Democratic Party reached out to voters in a different way.

Canvassers would just talk to voters. They went to parks, parties and other social centers to chat with people. They asked them if they like pets, Starbucks or had seen the big game. After a bond was built, political issues came into conversation.

“It reshaped political canvassing,” Banerian said. “That’s how [Democrats] got so many non-political people so involved in the political scene.”

The Michigan Republicans built upon this idea and created the MI Team Dashboard, a website where users log in, look up friends and family (as long as they are registered voters) and give basic information about people such as if they own guns, hunt, play sports, etc. This advanced way of gathering information helps candidates get an idea of a community they will be interacting with.

This new-age political canvassing is important for candidates because it gives them a chance to build a relationship with a voter outside of the issues.

“It’s much more than just knocking on doors and making phone calls,” Banerian said. “It’s a lot more complex.”

Political canvassing is like a business or advertising agency using focus groups. They research what the people like and utilize that data to gain consumers.

Days are long for political canvassers, starting as early as 8 a.m. and ending well after the sun sets. Most of this time is spent knocking on doors, being observant and entering data into spreadsheets. Everything said or noticed should be considered data.

Candidates will walk with pet treats in their pockets because they know a pet owner is in the next house. They will notice a “World’s Greatest Dad Mug” and mention it on a follow-up call. Anything to make sure a voter remembers their interaction.

Canvassing is all about gathering data. If they do not have the data, then a candidate could be missing out on gaining key votes.

But for some, it’s just another way they are being taken advantage of by someone in a position of power.

“I do not like them coming to my door trying to influence my opinions,” Oakland student Matt Maser said. “It is hard to believe they actually care, to them I’m just a vote, not a person.”