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lelabeem's avatar

Does calling voters work?

Asked by lelabeem (67 points ) September 29th, 2008

Has anyone been called by either the Obama or McCain campaign? If you have, do you find it useful to hear from a volunteer about the candidate? Has anyone ever made calls for Obama to battleground states to voters who are potentially on the fence? I’m feeling apprehensive.

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22 Answers

EmpressPixie's avatar

I made calls from Obama headquarters last weekend. It was exciting. They had us calling volunteers to go door to door. The nice thing is that they people you call are already signed up as volunteers so it’s not quite a cold call. Like, they know you’ll be calling. Not when or why necessarily, but they know it will happen.

My boyfriend went door to door for Obama and said it was tedious and dull but important and rewarding. And low key. People don’t get mad or anything, they’re polite, and you feel like you’ve really helped. He just doesn’t like walking that much. Or talking to strangers. Having said that, he’s still doing it every Saturday next month.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

We get constant calls from Obama as my partner, Jenn, is a supporter and donated money a couple of times. It get quite annoying. Even she gets annoyed.

The question is, does it work. Yes. It works to piss me off. I don’t think it will change either of our minds.

cwilbur's avatar

One of the candidates has been spamming me. If anything, it’s likely to make me vote for his opponent. Phone calls are even more annoying.

tabbycat's avatar

I can remember in the past—say thirty or forty years ago—that calling people helped a lot. It got more people out to the polls, and it affected election results. I suspect it still helps today, but less so because we are all so accustomed to getting so many unwanted phone calls for various political causes.

I think we tune them out more now. I certainly do.

lefteh's avatar

[waves]
Hi guys, my name’s lefteh and I’m a voter contact coordinator for the Obama campaign.
Phone banking and door-to-door canvassing are two of the most important components to any large-scale campaign, if not the most important components. This type of voter contact, when performed more than a few weeks before the election, usually has two primary objectives: first, identify supporters of your candidate; second, persuade the undecided voters. Surprisingly enough, persuasion is not nearly as important as supporter identification. Sure, we love to inform people about the stances of our candidate and why we support him, but the bottom line is that people will make up their minds for themselves. However, once we identify someone as a supporter, we can then ask them to volunteer and build the campaign that way. Furthermore, some states have an early voting option where voters can cast their ballots up to more than a month before the election. Wherever possible, we urge voters to do this. Finally, the more supporters we have identified, the more effective the GOTV (get out the vote) campaign will be on the week of the election.

EDIT: If you’re super interested, this is a great read.

lelabeem's avatar

I’ve called fellow supporters and gone canvassing door-to-door in an Obama leaning neigborhood. Both experiences were positive. Now the campaign wants me to call undecided voters and I still am not convinced that it would be that useful. Thank you for your comments about this. Is anyone out there undecided that would appreciate a phone call from someone in the campaign they could share their primary concerns with?

lefteh's avatar

If you do decide to start doing persuasion calls, expect a very low contact rate, and an even lower persuasion rate. If you persuade one person out of 40 calls, you just did a fantastic job.

dalepetrie's avatar

I was reading, and perhaps lefteh can share how accurate he thinks this is, about some voter outreach efforts. The stats that they gave were that if you were to go door to door (and I believe this was a national average), you would find only 1 in 4 people answer the door. Of those people who DO answer the door, one in 12 will be a persuadable voter, someone who perhaps is willing to listen to you, or who maybe isn’t registered to vote and you can get them the registration materials. So essentially, for every 50 doors you knock on, that equals essentially one more vote for your candidate.

When you look at that on a micro scale, you can say, wow, what a collosal waste of my time, but if you have thousands of volunteers in every single state knocking on hundreds of doors every weekend for 3 months, it really CAN make a difference.

Knowing that though, it’s just not something I’m personally comfortable doing. I’d rather support Obama by giving him as much money as I can and by spreading the message far and wide to people I know and on places on the internet like this. I guess there’s a term for this…slacktivisim (i.e. slacker activism). I have made calls on election day to remind people to go out and vote, and I have done telephone polling to gague voter attitudes, but I’m just not comfortable going up to someone’s door, because I personally don’t answer the door at my house if someone unexpectedly drops by, and I screen my calls…I’m not moved by advertising, and if I want something from you, I’ll let you know. So, it’s a pretty far stretch for me to try to persuade anyone to come to my side, because I think you should vote your conscience, even if you don’t agree with me…the only thing I really try to fight back against is lies and distortions, and I do that wherever I see them.

So, I thank people like lefteh who actually take their time to do this, I know they make a bigger difference than anyone else, and I’ll keep supporting their efforts by giving Obama an occassional donation from my credit card. But I’d prefer to stay out of their way and let those who feel more comfortable with that do the job, because I know they will do it much better than I ever could.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

They called me. I pretty much hung up. Yeah, I went to see Obama speak, and it was AWESOME! but that doesn’t mean I want to waste my time talking to some RANDOM person about how cool he is…

gooch's avatar

No it actually ticks me off.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I will say that of the two people I actually reached, one said I’ve already said I’ll volunteer and the other enthusiastically greeted me and said she’d been waiting for us to call.

Um, having said that, I only spoke to two of the close to fifty people I tried to call.

galileogirl's avatar

Phonebanking does work on a local level especially when it comes to bond issues and local propositions. I have been involved in education bonds and when you can tell potential voters why you support or don’t support an issue and answer questions it gets them to vote on something they would otherwise ignore.

The calls I won’t respond to are the “blind polls” where they ask you to rank things 1–5 and when you tell them you haven’t an opinion they keep pushing. If they want my opinion, OK. But if they act like I owe it to them..CLICK

Darwin's avatar

Quite frankly, I already know how I am going to vote by the time anybody bothers to call, so I am not affected by the calls. However, my husband is disabled and sleeps a lot and those calls have made him decide not to vote at all.

Not a very rational response, but he isn’t always very rational any more. Pain will do that to you.

I was involved in an election effort many years ago, going door to door and offering to schedule rides for folks to the polls. It was in Florida not long after the 1960s and a huge number of black voters greatly appreciated being able to go vote in a group.

Otherwise, I haven’t found it to affect my voting.

basp's avatar

I usually DON’T vote for the one who annoys me the most. But then I usually all ready have my mind made up before I hear from anyone.

cwilbur's avatar

@lefteh: Do you have statistics for the number of people that your phone banking convinces not to vote for your candidate because of a dislike of unsolicited telephone calls?

galileogirl's avatar

I’m sorry guys but “If you bother me, I’m gonna show you and not vote at all” is just stupid…the attitude not the individual. Who can’t find that little switch that turns off the ringer? Who doesn’t know how to screen calls? We get to whine and moan about the people we let run our country but a little inconvenience and we should give up our hard won right to vote? That’ll show them Dadgummit! Here’s a knife. Go cut off your nose to spite your face. LMAO

dalepetrie's avatar

galileogirl – I have to agree with your last comment completely. I mean, if you honestly can base your decision about whom you’d rather be leading the country based not on issues or whom you think would do better, but on whose supporters dared to call you or knock on your door (or didn’t), perhaps we’re better off if you DON’T vote at all. I really doubt anyone who has an opinion one way or the other on the liberal/conservative continuum would really use their vote to vote against someone because of a phone call or a visit.

cwilbur's avatar

In other words, you don’t know how many people decide to vote against a candidate because of canvassing and phone banking, and you’re really hoping the number is less than 1 in 50.

I’ve got fairly strong opinions on a number of matters. Others, I can go either way. And my vote on a referendum question, where I could see a strong case on either side and was thinking over the issues, was completely swayed this weekend when a political activist got in my face and tried to convince me by the use of fear and guilt. She succeeded: I’m voting against her side.

melly6708's avatar

i used to work for a local city campaign and i would to phone calls or walk around handing out flyers to houses etc.. and it was not that exciting… only the pay but it was a boring job and i would get very tired.. but in the end the guy i was working for actually won.. and sometimes i would get some crazy people… and i would get a little depressed when they would hang up on me while i was talking..lol

chyna's avatar

It honestly just ticks me off, so I have a tendency to not vote for the person who KEEPS calling my house and leaving messages (hear that Shelly Moore Capito?)

lefteh's avatar

@dale: Those numbers aren’t too far from the truth. My contact rate (number of conversations per number of doors knocked on) floats between 30 and 35 percent. About 40% of those are Obama supporters already. About 40% are McCain supporters. About half of the 20% that are undecided are then persuaded to vote Obama.

@cwilbur: Numbers, no. Results, yes. Unfortunately I can’t seem to locate any articles or anything for you, but time has shown that the more voter contact a candidate does the more successful they are in the election.

nelsonmj917's avatar

@lefteh- Thanks very much for sharing your knowledge about this with us. To jump in on the discussion, one thought on what you mentioned: To what extent do you think it’s possible that time spent contacting voters only correlates with candidate success but isn’t necessarily a cause of candidate success? For example, this year Obama seems to have a large number of volunteers willing to do this for him, but that would suggest he’s also already doing well to begin with.

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