Thursday, 24 March 2016

Just because it's new and different, it doesn't mean it's bad!

I find it frustrating though not surprising that almost every change I have tried to implement has at first been met with resistance, (sometimes bordering on hostility) followed by gradual, begrudging acceptance. And at times, when things have been an outstanding success, I have even heard people claiming "well, I supported this all along..."  Who was it who said, "success has many fathers, failure is an orphan"?

Take for example the Knock, Drop & Collect (KDC) canvassing scripts. 

I cannot take any of the credit for creating these, but I am certainly one of their greatest supporters. As is often the case, it's our more traditional members who are suspicious about it, with younger activists happy to go with the flow. 

Very recently I turned-up at a Campaign Day with a box full of KDC scripts. "Oh I hate this" said a longstanding member of the team. "I didn't know you'd ever tried it," I said. "I haven't, but it's new and I don't like anything new."

In the post ward years and up to the 1983 election probably 90% of voters supported one of the two main parties and most people were ideologically committed,with a small pool of swing voters in the middle. In such a "black and white" world where everyone was red or blue, a simple "may we count on your support?" was probably enough.  These days it's not so simple. For most of the last 30 years the two main parties have polled around 65% and tribal loyalty continues to diminish. Conservatives lend their votes to UKIP at European Elections and Labour supporters happily switch to SNP, Green or Respect with the prevailing wind.  As the electorate has become more fickle in their behaviour so the technology needed to identify and track our supporters has had to change too.

The question "On a scale of 0 to 10 how likely are you to support each of the following parties" is the one which tends to irritate our traditional campaigners, as it fails to result in a C or S on the canvassing card.  What it does do, however, is provide us with a picture of voters most likely to support us, those who will need encouragement, those who need to left alone and those who could be persuaded, along with the messages needed to do so. 

For example, last year we fought and won a by election in one of Kent's most marginal council wards. During the campaign we identified around 900 residents who put Conservative higher than any other party (pledges). However many of these put us on 8 and the LibDems on 7 or us on 6 and UKIP on 5. By knowing which Conservatives were also favourable to the LDs and which were also considering UKIP we were able to tailor our GOTV messages accordingly. Similarly, we knew the whereabouts of 93 UKIP voters who would prefer a Conservative councillor to a LibDem councillor; valuable data in a ward where the likely majority was estimated at 50 votes.  None of this information would have been available to us had we only done traditional canvassing. 

So next time your Agent, Campaign Manager, Deputy Chairman Political or Field Campaigner introduces you to a new campaign tool, please give it your best shot and don't dismiss it simple because it is new or different. Full colour leaflets, computerised Campaign HQs, mobile telephones and email were all "new and different" once - it didn't make them bad!   

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely right Andrew. Survey canvassing takes longer than traditional canvassing because you are asking for more information. However knock/drop means that you have several people completing the forms at the same time which reduces that time. The rich data that you get, including the voting scale is invaluable in telling you what people are thinking and in which direction their mood is heading. Not every Kipper is a disaffected Tory for example. You can then follow up, engaging them on the issues that matter to them rather than what excites you. The responses are more honest as they're less likely to tell you what you want to hear in order to get you off the doorstep and the info is not open to interpretation. At first, I thought people would be less likely to give email addresses but that did not prove to be the case. Close to election day, it may be more important to give a little more 'face time' than simply asking them to complete a form but having done this form of canvassing for 3 years, I'm a big fan and hopefully proof that it works.