Canvassing, Phonebanking, Spam, Oh My!

My daughter works for the Democratic Party back east, and when elections come around she spends a huge amount of time volunteering. For Democrats, volunteering almost inevitably means canvassing and phonebanking. During the last election they lost an election they expected to win, and when they went back and asked the voters why they voted against our candidate, the voters said they had rebelled against getting so many phone calls and literature drops.

And I got some 20 calls in one day. And in the campaign I was working on, we had several people tell us, “Ok, I’ll contribute, but only if you promise to stop calling.”

The double whammy is that we are inundated with advertisements and phone calls, but we see much of it as just inwanted spam rather than valuable information.

“When the only tool you’ve got is a hammer,
every problem looks like a nail.”

Problem is, campaigns just don’t know any better, spamming us is all they’ve been taught. They are doing what the campaign before them did, and by the time they got to work, everything was already in crisis mode, so they didn’t have time to try out new ideas. And if they received any training, such as Camp Carnahan, they were taught by those whose day job is to sell canvassing and phonebanking and similar forms of spam to the campaigns.

And much of it is just that: spam. The voters want hard information so they can distinguish what makes the candidates differ from each other so they can make in informed choice. And the campaigns all too often want to win just by name recognition or by emotion, so they send out tons of literature with family pictures, but too little about issues. And in this last campaign, many campaigns didn’t even want the voters to know which party the candidates belonged to. In the campaign I was with, our side sent out a flyer noting that our opponent never stated anywhere that he was a Republican (yet we weren’t much better…). (Same with Jim Talent…guess nobody wanted to say they were Republican this election…)

And if you check out all those organizations which ask candidates where they stand on the issues, the candidates very seldom respond.

So the vicious circle continues. Every election, the candidates spend more and more money to spam us with more and more non-information that tells us less and less about them.

Maybe if we start getting more involved with the campaigns, we can push from the inside to get them to give out more information rather than just more spam, and perhaps find ways to give people the information they want and need in ways they want to receive it.



4 Responses to Canvassing, Phonebanking, Spam, Oh My!

  1. […] The other is that voters are sick of being spammed with mailers and ads that tell them next to nothing about a candidate’s stand on the issues: Maybe if we start getting more involved with the campaigns, we can push from the inside to get them to give out more information rather than just more spam…. Posted November 10, 2006 by Jo Etta in Blog with 0 comments […]

  2. Ruth Ortbal says:

    Tom, that’s one of the reasons I didn’t do any phonebanking this time. Last time I was still calling at 5 PM on election day and people seemed so tired of it all. Ruth Ortbal

  3. Jeannette Ward says:

    Maybe if when we call, we approach it as “I’m with the MO Dem party and I’m calling to see if you need any help with voting or have any questions about this election” we might be better received. I actually had a few calls where people did need help or had questions. They seemed grateful for the calls. I also think personal calls are better than pre-recorded ones although I thought it was cute when I got three calls from Bill Clinton. On the other hand, I did contact one lady who was really angry and threatened not voting if people kept calling. She said she had a sick husband and three small children and was really stressed out. Perhaps the various organizations could do a better job of coordinating their phone lists and calls so that the total number of superfluous calls could be reduced.

  4. numen says:

    I think I need to do another posting on how things ought to work. People want human contact, but not artificial contact. People want information, but not spam.

    And people want to feel they will be listened to, not just talked at.

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