Going door-to-door is both an art and a science. There are many common misconceptions born out of someone’s bad experiences campaigning for a political campaign that just don’t match up with reality most of the time. Let’s set the record straight:
7 Myths About Door-to-Door Canvassing:
1. The closer to the script you stay, the better.
This is what you will be told by most campaigns. That is because they are afraid you will say things that they don’t want you to say. Nothing is worse for a campaign than rogue messaging. The problem is that people don’t respond to scripts. They respond to people. Figure out the main messages of the campaign and be as natural as possible without deviating from those messages. (For top research in this area, check out “In the Trenches: What Republican Operatives Need to Know About Voter Canvassing.”)
2. It is illegal to knock on doors marked no soliciting.
A good friend of mine always asks these questions of volunteers who are wondering about no soliciting signs. First, “Who made the laws about soliciting?” The politicians. Second, “Who wants to get re-elected?” The politicians. Finally, “Does it seem likely that politicians would make laws that hamper their ability to get what they want?”… In short, you are not soliciting. Going to a marked, no-soliciting door with a political campaign is completely legal.
3. Doors marked no soliciting will be less receptive.
This is sometimes accurate, but I have found that if the truth be told, the majority will not respond in any way more negatively than usual. Most of the time they don’t even remember they have the sign, and they basically don’t want average salesman coming up and bugging them. Occasionally you will get some people who will challenge you, and that is fine, you can just apologize and move on. To say this is the average however is a definite myth.
4. It is difficult to canvass territory that has been recently canvassed by another campaign.
I have literally been working opposite sides of the street with another campaigns worker before, going back over some of the exact same doors five minutes later. People actually like to compare and contrast. Any questions that the other campaign brought up to them are fresh on their minds. Rarely is it any more difficult to canvass after someone else. It can actually be very beneficial.
5. Doors with dogs should be skipped.
For reasons I have yet to comprehend, the presence of a dog in a front yard has a very unnerving effect on many first time canvassers. Dogs are pets. If you can see them, they aren’t typically dangerous, or they wouldn’t be out and free. Use caution and intelligence, but don’t be intimidated by that tail wagging lab simply because he happens to be trying to call you over by barking. Nothing facilitates a conversation with a voter like making friends with their dog.
6. It is fine to drop literature on a mailbox.
Every campaign I have been on has made a point to say this, but don’t forget! Mailboxes are off limits. It isn’t just illegal. It is a federal offense. Don’t do anything to the mailbox. (And just for good measure, leave the post alone, too. Avoid even the appearance of evil.) Nothing like giving a campaign a good name like breaking the law.
7. People don’t like it when you knock on their doors.
Finally, as hard as it is for people to believe, the average person doesn’t mind having a campaign volunteer tell them what they need to know about a candidate to make an informed decision. It saves them time, and effort. They feel like they are getting decent information because it is straight from the source, and if you do your job right, it doesn’t take that long. There will, of course, be exceptions, but as a general rule, the overwhelming majority of your responses will either be neutral or positive, with the occasional cynic and recluse thrown in.