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.