Door-knocking is a tactic that every serious political party still relies upon. Despite the ever-increasing availability and usage of the internet, canvassing people’s opinions face to face remains an indispensable tool in a modern electoral campaign.
But is it just a bit annoying? When there are so many means of communication, most of which don’t risk interrupting a potential supporter’s dinner, knocking on people’s doors might come over as a bit archaic. So we thought we’d ask the unsuspecting folk of Arnold, in the constituency of Gedling, how they like their (potential) representatives to get in touch with them.
Of the people we spoke to, very few seemed keen on having people knock on their door, although many were interested in reading the parties’ leaflets.
“We’ve got a really loud dog,” said one couple, “so there wouldn’t be much point knocking on our door.” “I’ve never voted before,” added the man. “I don’t really understand what they stand for, but if a leaflet came through the door I’d read it… I’d definitely watch an interview with the candidates on the news, but I wouldn’t turn the TV on for it.”
“If they put it in the media where you can choose whether or not to listen, then we’ll choose whether to vote for them,” said another couple. “They always come at tea, after work, it’s the last thing you need… The last politician that came round, I said, ‘Have you got an appointment?’ It’s blunt, but it gets the point across.”
One committed Labour voter said that he was quite happy for non-Labour candidates knocking on his door: “I’m happy to talk to them and waste their time.” He was selective in the leaflets he reads: “I’ll read the Labour leaflets and the Lib Dem ones. I’ll never look at the Tory ones – I haven’t received a Green one yet.”
A middle-aged couple also said that they were only interested in reading leaflets from certain parties: “We read the leaflets that come in – the ones that interest us. It’s good when they have a local touch.”
One young couple, however, were looking forward to having a politician knock on their door. “We’d like to have a politician stand in front of us so we ask them what they’re actually doing.”
We threw the question open to Twitter as well. Liberal Democrat candidate for Mid Dorset and North Poole Vikki Slade, who chatted to 50for15 in February, replied that she’s had few aggressive reactions to knocking on people’s doors over the years.
@50for15 I’ve knocked on doors of nearly 18,000 people in last yr…probably less than 20 slammed in face, and invited in to many more!
— vikki slade (@vikki4mdnp) 12 Avril 2015
Josh Dixon, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, spoke about the usefulness of door-knocking for politicians, and claimed most people enjoy it.
David Ellis, a Labour council candidate in Gedling, agreed that, for the most part, people enjoy discussing issues on the door-step.
@50for15 Some people don’t like being disturbed but many are pleased to see candidates/canvassers and to have the opp to discuss with them
— David Ellis (@David4Ernehale) 12 Avril 2015
Fundamentally, however, research shows that physically turning up on people’s doorsteps is an effective way of attracting floating voters and firming up support. So the tactic is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
UKIP expert Rob Ford, who wrote Revolt on the Right with Matthew Goodwin, perhaps summarised the situation best with a pseudo-Wilde quote.