Each day working on a campaign brings new experiences, surprises, and hard work. The general schedule remains the same – canvassing, phone banking, data entry – but no day is exactly the same. This is largely because of the various experiences that come with canvassing every day. Canvassing is always an adventure because its success depends on so many factors: the neighborhood, the people, the time of day. The very first day I went canvassing I was sent to a wealthy, rural neighborhood. It was a completely different experience than my experience today when I was sent to a low-income, urban neighborhood. I felt more comfortable canvassing in the first neighborhood, but didn’t necessarily receive different responses. In the second neighborhood I often felt very uncomfortable walking into the various apartment buildings but every single person I talked to was kind. The responses were much the same in both neighborhoods, some were undecided, others were strong supporters, others declined to talk. I enjoy canvassing because it feels more personal than any other form of contact. You are literally walking the same paths as the voters whose doors you are knocking, enabling you to see firsthand how they live and also occasionally talking to the voters face-to-face. This is vastly more personal than talking on the phone.
Though phone banking is at times fruitful, it has a different feel than canvassing. For one, as obvious as it sounds, the lack of face-to-face contact denies a certain level of personal connection. When phone banking it is easy to begin mindlessly punching in the numbers, introducing yourself, asking the specific questions, and then moving on to the next number. Canvassing, though it too has certain questions you have to ask, is more personal because people can see you. If you’re canvassing with a partner and you both try to speak at once, everyone can laugh. Often children come to the door before their parents and you get to interact with them. When canvassing you have to be completely present. That’s not to say that when phone banking you can get away with mindlessly completing your calls. It’s just that when phone banking you can enter data, catch up on election news, and do busy work until someone answers. In addition, I have had more negative experiences on the phone than while canvassing. This may be because people are less willing to be rude when the person is standing in front of them. Both canvassing and phone banking has its pros and cons. While canvassing you get to walk outside in the fresh air and connect to voters face-to-face but it can be tiring to walk block after block for hours at a time. You can multi-task and often get more done quicker while phone banking but it can be mind-numbing. While each has its pros and cons I would take fresh air and various neighborhoods over monotonous hours of phone calls any day.
-- Genevieve Akins is a St. Olaf sophomore from Topeka, KS., majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential election.