Filed under: Election 2008, Local Government and Politics, Strategy and Tactics
From the top-notch electoral analysis site fivethirtyeight.com comes this little tidbit about just why our get out the vote efforts, though certainly different here in Shenandoah County, are absolutely crucial this year:
Twelve to one.
For every twelve voters who you talk to at their doors, one voter goes and votes who would not otherwise have voted. If you’re asking: “how can I be most effective in helping my candidate win the election?” then an organizer’s answer is going to be: knock on doors.
In a Yale study by Donald Green and Alan Gerber on the effects of doorknocking in local elections, they concluded that a conservative estimate was that “12 successful face-to-face contacts translated into one additional vote.”
This figure, moreover, is a conservative estimate. When calculating the effects of actual treatment, we regarded any conversation with a member of the household as a “contact.” Only about half of these conversations occurred directly with a subject in the treatment group; the remainder involved urging a housemate to vote and requesting that this message be passed along to the intended subject. Had we restricted the definition of contact to direct conversations with the subject, the apparent effects of canvassing would have been much greater.
Although the study aimed at local elections, the principle is sound. Face-to-face contact is the single most important effort a volunteer can contribute to his or her candidate.
Let’s do a little math. 12 face-to-face contacts is one new voter who would not have otherwise voted that you personally generated. You just doubled your own vote by speaking at the door to twelve voters. Of course, then it comes down to contact rate — how often is the person home that you’re trying to reach. A very low contact rate is probably 10%, and that happens. A very high contact rate can be 50%. Average is in the 25% ballpark. On average, you’d have to knock on 48 doors to generate 12 face-to-face contacts and one additional vote. 48 doors is a pretty standard, approximate walk list.
So if you go out one four-hour walk shift every weekend between now and the election, you’ve generated — on average — six extra votes from people who would not otherwise have voted for your candidate.
For those of you who still refuse to believe, here is the full study. Studies exist out there for phones and direct mail as well.
I’ve been saying it for four years, and I’ll say it again: Face to face contact with voters matter. Campaigning is a two part process: the campaigns use mass media (including the press and paid media, like radio and cable ads) to make the case for their candidate, but its the priority of the grassroots to make sure that people get out there and vote once the case has been made. Phones are a little less effective, but the studies show: outreach works, and it matters.
If you want to help make a major difference in this race, join as at 10 A.M. and again at 3 p.m. for Door to Door in Strasburg. We’ll meet at our headquarters at 183 E. King Street. We’ll try to make it out rain or shine–ponchos will be provided.
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