Submitted to this blog by Arthur Schiff.
Gabby Weiss, November 22, 2019
Deep Canvassing has grown in popularity as an organizing tool in the past few years, but while most people have heard of it, many are still unsure exactly what it is. The fundamentals behind deep canvassing are not new, in fact, organizing has always been based on the simple underlying belief that human conversations have the power to change minds and spur action.
The modern form of deep canvassing was developed by the Leadership LAB of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Their Project Director, Dave Fleisher,
“In a conventional canvass, campaigns try to control the message by sending volunteers out with a script to recite exactly as written. There’s this belief that if we just say the right words, the voter’s going to change their mind. With a deep canvass, we want to figure out what’s relevant to voters. There’s still a script, but it’s designed to help the canvasser build a good rapport with a voter. The distinguishing feature of a deep canvass is you take a lot more time to talk to voters and have a bona fide two-way conversation about real experiences that shape their thinking about the issues. Instead of a script that lasts 60 seconds, volunteers spend 10 or 20 minutes talking with each voter.”
While deep canvassing has primarily been used on issue-based campaigns, such as ballot measures for LGBT issues like gay marriage and transgender equality, many of the techniques and principles can be adopted to deepen the organizing practice of electoral campaigns as well.
1. Build connections on the doors
2. Spend time listening
3. Ask open-ended questions
4. Find common values
5. Don’t be afraid of the hard questions
Having real conversations about politics means that sometimes tough issues will come up. Many communities in the country today are facing sharply divided political landscapes and evaluating hard questions about the future. Canvass conversations are effective when, rather than shying away from these issues, they are addressed head on, through the lens of shared values. What are the issues that a voter is considering when making a candidate decision, and which decision is ultimately more aligned with their values?
6. Let voters persuade themselves
Most people don’t like being told what to do or what to think, and so rather than telling someone what the right answer is, asking voters to consider these questions for themselves can be a powerful tool for persuasion. The goal of deep canvass conversations is not to directly tell people how to vote, but rather to help walk them through the reasoning process of determining which candidate’s positions align best with their values. Using this process can help a voter truly connect with their motivation for political involvement, something that ideally will stay with them through election day.