Knocking on doors may seem intrusive, uncomfortable, and unnecessary to most but it is the bread and butter of political activists. Approaching and asking strangers to drop what they’re doing to have a chat with you about politics is an awkward concept, however, studies show that the ground campaigning has always turned out a higher number of voters.
In Dundee, Scotland, a group of academics conducted an experiment where they found two identical tower blocks in the same area, and only canvassed one. The block where they had knocked on doors and spoken to citizens had a 10% higher voter turnout overall.
With people more informed and opinionated about how their governments are run, now is a great time to get involved and have a go at doing some real on-the-ground political work.
Listed below are some tips to stay safe when canvassing.
Never canvass alone
You should already be aligned with a party before you go canvassing and often they will assign you a canvassing partner. If not, you can always request that you are set on your rounds with someone else. When openly advocating for a specific party or set of ideologies you could quite quickly become a target for harassment or physical threats.
If you do have a canvassing partner make sure you keep an eye on them and can communicate clearly with each other. You need to be able to pick up on if your partner ever feels uncomfortable in a situation so you can remove yourselves from the occasion immediately.
If a group forms, end the conversation
When talking to one resident sometimes a group can form around the conversation and situations can then escalate at a faster pace. You can never really predict what the intentions of the group are, or where the conversation will go. It is often advised that canvassers spend no more than 2 minutes at each door to avoid groups forming. However great the opportunity to address lots more people might seem, if you do see a group forming, remove yourself from the area as soon as possible.
Remember that you are asking for the public's time
Resilience and persistence are definitely important characteristics in a campaigner, however for your safety remember that no means no and if someone doesn't want to talk to you, be polite and walk away.
Avoid confrontation in any form
Do not wear any controversial clothing, badges, or symbols. Politics is a difficult topic, it affects every individual and how we live and so people understandably get very passionate in a political conversation. Although you will be advocating for your party and want to promote their values, stay as neutral as possible and don't take offence when people challenge your ideologies. Never assume the values of others to lead your conversation strategy. Keeping statements as positive as possible, don't take any hard stances on topics of controversy. Try to stay neutral and don't take personal offence when people challenge your ideologies.
Do not enter a residency
Although it may seem a polite gesture for someone to invite you into their property, it jeopardises your safety. This rule is often neglected but however friendly people seem nothing is worth putting your safety at risk.
Bring a navigation and communication device
It is incredibly easy to get lost even in a familiar neighbourhood. Ensure you have a map or navigation device handy so you don't have to risk asking strangers for directions. Having a phone with you is extremely important and make sure you regularly update members of your team or someone you trust about your location.
Canvassing can seem daunting, but most of the time you’ll be gaining invaluable experience talking to interesting people about politics and having your hand at implementing real change. This kind of groundwork is becoming increasingly overlooked but is a vital connection between the people and their government.