Conversations in the pub

22/05/2009

Apparently, people like to say things like “I’d only ever vote for X with a gun to my head” in order to test the canvasser.

If you run away, as the safe-seated subject of the conversation did, then they think you’re not worthy, and will be true to what they’ve said.

But if you stop and ask “why?” and then debate it with them, they’re actually likely to vote for you seeing as you’ve passed their little test.

Oh, and voters can tell when you’re outside deciding which person should talk to which household based on previous experience. They find it demeaning – best to drop the voter ID-ing act and just go to every door.

UPDATE: Of course, there’s an exception to this when you want to be able to get out the vote at short notice. i.e. on election day.


Leaflet Goldmine

21/05/2009

I’d misplaced the link earlier, but check out this growing and already huge record of election leaflets.
http://www.thestraightchoice.org/


Leaflets and Flyers

20/05/2009

First of all, which is better?

We’ve all been getting a whole load of leaflets and other material through the door lately thanks to the European Elections. 

The first thing that strikes you is how cluttered they are – there’s rarely any single thing to catch attention. Secondly, they often have far too much text, largely made up of meaningless platitudes, which funnily enough is actually quite hard to read. Thirdly, some  of them try to combine negative and positive voting – this is always a huge mistake. People tend to associate things – they could associate a feeling with a word, or a word with a name or person. For example, putting “Labour’s rubbish” right next to “Vote for …..” creates an obvious, but unintended association. 

Negative campaigning tends to increase anti-opponent support amongst your own existing supporters, whilst also alienating more independent voters, and perhaps even turning them against you as the association effect could imply.

This is why we don’t use negative campaigning, despite the easy temptation.

Oh, and the other thing to say is that I may have found the cheapest leaflets/flyers out there. Check out this site: http://www.bestprinting.co.uk/

If anyone can find 20,000 DL double-sided flyers for cheaper than £171 then please let me know


Balloons as campaigning material

13/05/2009

Pretty good idea actually. If you want to get a brand (e.g. the SLP logo) promoted, then the way to go about it is to use the balloon/t-shirt combo in a populated area, handing them out to people.

Will take a good look at prices, and get back to you on cost-effectiveness compared to leaflets.

[UPDATE]: yup, it’s looking good. You can get 1000 specialised balloons for just £108 from these guys.

I’d call that good value for money – leaflets generally cost about the same, and balloons will be far more visible and dare I say it fun!


Comment: The Problem with DNA databases and compulsory ID cards

08/05/2009

Everyone has the right to privacy. We also have the freedom to determine how much of our lives and our data we wish to keep private. You mention banks, etc. etc. – these are organisations to whom we have voluntarily given our information, making the judgement to trust them with it.

The trouble with ID cards and DNA databases is the fact that it’s government making them mandatory – you’d have no choice in the matter.

Now, when crimes are committed, freedoms are necessarily lost – part of the reasoning behind even the most extreme libertarian thoughts is that you have the full right to freedom as long as you don’t harm others in exercising that freedom. For example, the freedom to move (prison), to determine how to spend your time (community service), and also the right to your own privacy is lost when it is abused.

So when someone is found innocent of a crime, is it right for them to lose that right to privacy, with that DNA being stored without their choice?
Is it right for a victim of a crime to lose their right to privacy through no choice of their own? (and yes, if you watched some of the debates in the House of Commons, this happens).

You see, it’s fine to retain the DNA of a convicted criminal – they’ve abused their freedom and subsequently lose some of it, including their right to privacy.
But to retain the DNA of an innocent person, or to force them to use (and pay themselves!) for an ID card is fundamentally wrong.

As an aside, the biggest practical problems are these:

DNA and ID databases are open to abuse through corruption. Whenever you hear the word “government”, you’ve always got to remember that it’s some guy sitting behind a desk on a swively chair drinking coffee who’s actually got access to it 

(NB I have nothing against guys sitting behind desks on swively chairs drinking coffee – the idea is to show that government is only as human and prone to error, mistakes and corruption as the people running it!)

People take bribes – people also give bribes. As with any organisation, these things are as mistake-prone as the people running them.

What if, for example there was a witness who had been granted anonymity and a vengeful friend of a convict gained access to the database?

These situations are well within the realms of possibility, and pioneers of the schemes themselves mention this as their greatest fear.

The other big problem with ID cards (in this case not so much the DNA database) is that it’s essentially a miniature poll tax – everyone, and I mean everyone, if it were to be compulsory, would have to pay £60.

(Worth noting once again that these arguments don’t apply if this is given voluntarily – but then making these things voluntary isn’t the point in them is it?)

[UPDATE]: David Craig points out in the comments that invoking the right to ownership of identity would make a stronger case than the right to privacy.


Door-to-door canvassing or setting up in the middle of town?

07/05/2009

The two most common forms of canvassing involve going from door-to-door handing out leaflets and discussing politics on the door-step, or else setting up with a banner and something to hand out in the middle of town.

Having done both, I suspect that setting up stall is the better option. As Stu Sharpe pointed out in the comments on the last post, some, if not most people really don’t like speaking to strangers on their own doorstep. Some will be annoyed, others bleary-eyed, inattentive and dismissive, and yet more will be disturbed whilst doing something probably very important.

They do however generally take a greater interest when you’ve set up in the midde of town. You’re likely to be approached, they’re likely to be more chatty and to voice their opinions, and there’s little sense of invading their space, so long as you stay polite and cheerful, and let them be when they’ve made it clear they want to be left alone.

Not only are people more approachable and willing to approach, but you’re likely to come into contact with lots more people in a shorter amount of time than going from door to door. It’s also generally more fun!

Having said that, both approaches are probably very useful – it’s worth finding the right balance between the two.


When canvassing, is asking voter intention / past a good idea?

05/05/2009

Asking voter intention is of course a very common thing when canvassing, but is it a good idea?

The reason I ask is because very often, people act according to how they perceive themselves. For example, I already think of myself as a natural SLP voter (obviously), and will actually struggle to vote otherwise for the elections we’re not contesting. The question therefore is whether you should (perhaps inadvertently) affirm people’s self-perception of the way they vote when canvassing.

I think it depends on the circumstances.

If you’re a well-known party, and canvassing in an area that usually votes your way, then asking voter intention is a good idea. For example, if I were in an “SLP area”, with natural “SLP voters”, then asking them the question would mean they affirm that self-perception as an SLP voter, and are likely to vote that way.

However, if you’re less well-known, then it may pose a huge risk. For example, asking how they vote in a Conservative area will do no good whatsoever. One of the first things they’ll say at the door will be “I vote Conservative”, so any chance of persuading them to vote otherwise is spoilt. Saying anything negative about “their ” party will be seen as offensive, and anything positive about your own will likely be negated by the effect of getting them to state the way they’ve “always” voted in the past.

There are of course extraordinary circumstances. For example, some campaigners from other parties are finding that asking voter intention in some previously pro-Labour areas will produce great results, with people perhaps saying “never again”. It means they’ll immediately consider the next alternative (presumably the party that’s second in the constituency), and will be affirming their intention to never vote Labour.

Perhaps the best option then in order to gain wavering voters or “independents” is to avoid the question altogether, in the meantime using a positive pro-SLP message in order to persuade them to be natural SLP voters.

The other downside to not asking is that you don’t gain any sense of where exactly the pro and anti areas are! Perhaps then it’s best to ask which way they’ve voted only after you’ve been elected and are confident that the area may indeed have been pro-SLP.