Block walking isn’t a new word in politics. It means political canvassing, door-to-door outreach, or, in simple terms, face-to-face engagement with potential voters. You might be surprised at how effectively this technique can boost voter turnout.
This political strategy emphasizes a non-judgmental door-to-door approach, where candidates and volunteers listen to voters' stories and emotions and let them feel understood and valued when making political decisions. Block walking is a persuasive messaging strategy that ensures effective communication and connection with voters.
Remember, elections are won based on how well candidates can connect with voters.
Though it has come to take various forms with the ever-changing political landscape, block walking can be generally defined as a political voter engagement strategy that involves two steps: voter identification and then reaching out to those voters. In the door-knocking process, candidates seek to build awareness around their campaigns, addressing voters’ concerns while gathering information. You can do this by effectively mobilizing voters to register to vote and then turn out to vote on election day, while convincing them to be on your side.
Being a long-shot political strategy, it is important to start deep canvassing months before an election, not when the election temperature is already hot. In your earlier months of deep canvassing, it is important to focus on information gathering and encouraging voter registration. This stage will create a foundation where you can later build on your political interests.
Here are some of the most important phases of block walking for political campaigns:
Voter identification is the surveying stage of voter outreach. At this stage, you engage in block walking to identify potential supporters, opponents, and undecided voters within the targeted area. Through face-to-face engagement, you get to ask voters what issues are important to them and match them with your interests as a candidate.
You can use questions to gather valuable information, including their political preferences and inclinations. Later, be sure to log this information into a centralized database and use it to conduct more targeted voter outreach in the coming months.
Voters are likely to vote for you when they feel you have truly engaged them and their concerns. As far back as 2000, researchers Alan Garber and Don Green provided evidence for this piece of common wisdom when they found that connecting with voters face-to-face significantly increased the likelihood of those voters turning out to vote. In Garber and Green’s study, 59% of those who were successfully contacted in person turned out to vote on election day, compared to 44.5% of those who were not contacted in person.
Today, with the advent of campaign content on social media and other forms of digital campaign communication, making in-person connections with voters can be just as, if not more, powerful.
To effectively mobilize voters, get out the vote by spreading the word about key election information. Make sure your supporters know when and where to vote, how to register to vote, and why it is so important to do so.
Your GOTV process should aim to inspire a positive change, helping voters feel empowered that their vote and contribution really does make a difference. Remember that in local elections, a small handful of votes can often be enough to turn the tide of an election!
For effective mobilization to take place, you’ll need certain resources, especially if it proves difficult to find volunteer support. Still, you can view fundraising as more of an opportunity than a challenge. Fundraising can be a great opportunity to build your political influence and connect with supporters.
Trust-building is important in creating authentic relationships during donor cultivation. Your relationships with supporters can have broad ripple effects.
Every outreach strategy needs an actionable plan that can be effectively implemented and evaluated. To plan, you have to set realistic objectives.
Here are four steps to follow in the door-knocking process:
When establishing a field plan, it is more effective to implement a data-driven approach that will ensure you yield the best results, rather than guessing or basing your plans off of incomplete information. Do your research on information about voters and how they have been mobilized during past elections. Identify the outreach tactics and choice of topics that past politicians have used during their campaigns.
This step will help in voter identification, so that you can collect the names, addresses, and other details about the potential voting neighborhoods you want to contact. It is also important in creating your walk list, the questions voters are to be asked, and how you plan to ask them these questions.
This is the stage of actual voter engagement. The effectiveness of the door knocking process depends on several factors, including the neighborhood's density, the level of voter engagement, and the efficiency of the door-knocking process.
For impactful voter engagement, make sure your team understands how to persuade voters to gain support, build authentic relationships, and drive voter engagement.
During door-knocking, your team should collect valuable information, including voters' concerns, preferences, and level of support for your campaign and proposed policies. With this information, you can improve your voter outreach strategy going forward and make sure that your message is resonating with voters.
While block walking is a great campaign strategy, it shouldn’t stand alone. Instead, it should complement other campaign strategies.
With the information you collect during block walking, you can refine your campaign message, improve your target demographics, and plan follow-up communications while expanding voter outreach. Block walking is generally a data-driven campaign approach that ensures the effectiveness of the whole campaign process.
Here are a few tricks to help ensure success during block walking:
Stay Polite: Politeness and persuasive messaging is essential while interacting with the voters. Learn how to maintain your cool and don’t take any negative reactions personally.
Don’t Be Pushy: Candidates should know the difference between being persuasive and pushy. Aim for a positive change with the right amount of pressure and goodwill.
Keep Moving; Remember, Not All Doors Will Open: Door-knocking is just one of the many political campaigns strategies. It will not work in some of your target demographics, even when you try to make the most out of it. Do not overstress when the strategy is not moving; use the available information to implement other strategies.
Choosing a successful canvassing strategy depends on the amount of time and resources available to you. How much time and resources do you have to conduct widespread door-to-door canvassing? How many volunteers can you count on to contribute to block walking?
The quality of your canvassing efforts will depend on how well connections with voters are built. You may consider assigning volunteers to their own community or neighborhoods, an effective way to build authentic relationships with voters.
For this strategy to be successful, you first have to train volunteers by instructing them on the proper canvassing procedure and how to have productive face-to-face engagement with voters. Remind volunteers to show all voters appreciation, even those who are not cooperative.
Ready to take your block walking strategy to the next level? Good Party offers free campaign tools for independent candidates, including templates to help you generate customized canvassing scripts. Our tools also allow you and your volunteers to keep track of how many doors you have knocked on your canvassing route, so you always know how close you are to meeting your voter outreach goals. Get a free demo of Good Party’s AI Campaign Manager today, and see how it can help you get the most out of block walking and other campaign strategies.