One of the most hallowed traditions in American politics is the art of door-to-door campaigning. People love to meet the men and women who are vying for their votes, and there is arguably no better opportunity to connect with the voters who can carry you to victory than by talking to them about important issues from the comfort of their porches. On the other hand, knocking on doors can be an intimidating experience for some candidates and volunteers, so here’s some advice on how you can conduct door-to-door campaigning as effectively as possible.
Focus on Registered Voters
If you want to win, you need to gain the support of men and women who can actually vote, so make sure that your door-to-door efforts only target registered voters. You can organize a voter registration drive if you want to engage new sections of the electorate, but during door-to-door campaigning, you want to focus on the areas where you can earn the greatest possible return, and that means not sacrificing precious time with people who aren’t registered to vote. Contact your local board of election for an up-to-date list of registered voters in your district, city, or state.
While it’s admirable for you spend an hour talking to each voter and winning them over to your positions, you simply don’t have the time for it. Aim to spend three minutes at each house: Give your name, a short description of what’s important to you and what you hope to achieve, offer the voter some campaign literature, and go to the next house.
Perhaps the worst possible outcome during door-to-door campaigning is for the candidate to get caught in an argument with a constituent. To sidestep this potential trap, remain polite even when people get heated. Acknowledge the voter’s frustration—if they disagree with one of your positions, you can say, “I can see where you’re coming from” or “I can tell that you’re passionate about this topic”—and then move on.
Ask for Voters’ Support
Once you’ve put in the effort of knocking on a voter’s door and discussing your ideas with them, don’t just walk away: Ask for their support! The person will feel more energized about voting or volunteering if the candidate asks for their help directly, so make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity to engage new men and women with your campaign—plus, if they do offer their support, you can have your campaign staff take down their information and contact them about future events or get out the vote initiatives. It’s also a good idea to leave each voter with some literature that discusses your positions or explains how they can get more involved.