The Wall Street Journal has done a deep dive into what is says are the 26% of voters who (currently) make up the universe of “persuadables” who will determine the presidential election. Hope Springs from Field PAC has been knocking on doors in the Swing Electoral College states for several years now, and our results are not necessarily different, but they are definitely much more useful to the president’s and any Democrat’s campaign in the states we have been canvassing. They feel normal, especially when we compare it to what we found during the Obama Administration. Voters know Joe Biden, just as they thought they knew Barack Obama.
The Wall Street Journal telephoned and texted it’s survey of 1,500 registered voters conducted Aug. 24-30, 2023. Hope Springs volunteers talked to 13,684 voters who participated in our Issues Survey in eleven Swing States during that same period. The latter part is particularly significant: while the WSJ poll (pdf) was taken nationally, our volunteers are knocking on doors in Electoral College (and Senate) Swing States. And, while we wouldn’t imagine the results would be much more different if they had concentrated on Swing States, the data we collect is available to Democratic campaigns (who use VAN) for the general election. So those “persuadables” are not unknown to us, we know who they are and how to target them, to *specifically* target them.
Since the 2021 Georgia Senate Runoffs, Hope Springs from Field volunteers have knocked on 7,279,853 doors and spoken to 559,308 voters, about half of which were Democrats and half were unaffiliated with any major party. Of those half-a-million voters, 347,293 have answered questions from our Issues Survey, in whole or in part, in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia.
The Wall Street Journal analysis is important, though, because it is public. Political campaigns (especially at the Senate and Presidential levels) don’t use public polling results on their campaign side, but they can be used in donor and supporter relations when that public polling reflects internal results. The fact is that public polling is a public relations (or newspaper selling) tool. And political campaigns use it that way, too. Engagious has been doing important work in this area, as well, and mirrors the kind of focus group work that presidential campaigns can do.
The WSJ analysis argues (predictably) that “most voters say their choice for president is already settled, if their options are Biden and Trump:”
That leaves a small but meaningful share of voters, 26%, as “up for grabs,” or persuadable. And these voters are conflicted: They don’t think Biden is doing a good job but dislike some of Trump’s personal qualities. They have a sour view of the economy but favor abortion rights. The findings give clues to how each party will try to reach these voters in the coming months.
The persuadable voters have a negative view of both Biden and Trump, more so than do the rest of the electorate. Some 70% have an unfavorable view of Biden, and 74% have an unfavorable view of Trump.
The Journal notes that, “persuadable voters look like the electorate overall.” This is what we are finding at the doors, as well.
The WSJ analysis gives context to why Hope Springs from Field volunteers are returning with data that shows that Biden is hovering around the 50% Job Approval mark in these 11 Swing States. Our target universe tends to be 50-50 Democrat to Independent or unaffiliated voter each week. But in some states, like Arizona and Montana (Senate election play), we knock on independent voters’ doors more often than we find Democrats to canvass.
Now we don’t ask about Republican candidates (non-Senate incumbents). But we hear from voters (a lot) about their views of TFG and other MAGA Republicans. Here in Virginia (where i am personally canvassing during the Fall for our important legislative elections in November (Early Voting has already begun!)), i’ve even talked to voters who mention (unprompted) Trump’s "rape conviction” in the context of a lengthy explanation about his views on abortion. It is always amazing to me how voters put desperate things together in their minds in order to reach their conclusions.
My point here is that Hope Springs isn’t asking voters about Trump or any Republican presidential candidate (yet). But i include the WSJ graphic as more a completist thing. Because some of my readers or volunteers may care to see it.
Those last two graphics offer contrasts, of course, between President Biden and TFG. But you can really see the advantage that Biden has going into a general election campaign in this fourth graphic (to the left) — except in the category of accomplishments. This particular characterization was hinted at in the first diary in this series. This voter from Virginia’s SD-31 decried how we don’t see headlines from Biden or his accomplishments (which he said were many) like we did for TFG. “We need to be bragging more,” he concluded.
The final graphic notes the Demographics of the people polled in the August survey. The fact that there are more women who identify as undecided at this time should be seen as incredibly positive in light of special election results in the past year, especially in view of the Kansas and Ohio specials — where women not only drove the results, but Republican women drove them to success for our side.
Hope Springs from Field volunteers have been asking voters about their concerns for our country, and their state and local communities, since June 2021 in the Swing States that are going to decide this election. But we aren’t knocking on doors in the urban areas (for the most part) where Democrats dominate; we have been knocking on doors in the swingy suburban communities where national elections are now decided. About half — in some places, more than half — of the voters we talk to each Saturday are independent or unaffiliated voters, people who almost never pull a primary ballot (and in some states, they can’t) and don’t feel attached to political parties in general. Their political ideology, in most cases, is, as one voter put it, “They should just work it out.” (The WSJ analysis identified these voters as moderate, but that’s really a pigeon-hole description; voters may settle on that term for lack of a more accurate description.) As much as partisans like us hate the thought of compromise, these voters — that “some 17%” — can’t really think in other terms. They despise the political infighting. That’s why they aren’t affiliated with either party. “Quit bickering,” they tell us.
Hope Springs from Field speaks to them — and to Democrats, as well — by our voter driven, deep organizing canvassing approach to direct, personal voter contact. When we talk to voters, we aren’t trying to convince them of Democrat’s virtues, we are showing them. We allow voters to direct our conversations at the door. We use an Issues Survey (example to the left), which volunteers are supposed to show voters as we start to ask questions. We find that voters willingly answer the questions they want to share with us, and most responses are immediate. Visceral even. Which is what we want.
Most voters who choose to respond — and we have a fairly high response rate (although it varies from state to state and from Saturday to Saturday) — almost always answer the “most important issue facing the country (Q2)” question and some voters will even answer all three (federal, state and local) with different responses. For example, when we were running GOTV in Ohio for the Issue 1 special election, we would often have voters who would tell us that, say, the Economy was their Number 1 national issue but that Reproductive Healthcare was their Number 1 state issue. But other voters would say Reproductive Freedom was their Number 1 national issue. Other voters wouldn’t mention abortion as a Top National, State or Local Issue but would tell us that Reproductive Rights was the “single issue that determines” how they vote. All of these voters were abortion voters and they were all put into our GOTV universe for the special election last month.
Since March 4, Hope Springs from Field volunteers have been knocking on doors (as weather permitted) in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia. These all are critical states that will determine who is President and which party controls the Senate in 2025. So, not much at stake.
We canvass Democrats and unaffiliated voters with a systematic approach that reminds them not only that Democrats care, but Democrats are determined to deliver the best government possible to all Americans.
Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing, voter registration (and follow-up) and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:
Hope Springs from Field understands that volunteer to voter personal interactions are critical. Knocking on doors has repeatedly been found to be the most successful tactic to get voters to cast a ballot and that is the goal of what we do.
As you can see from one of the questionnaires we use, open ended questions give voters a lot of latitude to tell us where they are coming from. And what we hear from them confirms what we are seeing in the national surveys of independent voters, especially in their attitudes towards Trump.
What can we do? I look over the data we collect every week and i, a career field guy, often think, this is the one campaign where i think television advertising will really make a difference. I *am not* arguing that media should be prioritized over field (as it is generally) and i will continue to believe that (like the Obama presidentials) media and field should be equally funded. But you won’t find me arguing this cycle that television advertising is “too much” or too expensive.
Sure, we have ample evidence that campaign advertising this cycle (by our side) should follow the news, jump on the news, even. Voter reflections on Reproductive Healthcare have been instructive in this area. Since 2021 we have been asking several questions on our Issues Survey that expose voter views about abortion (and other issues). Most Urgent Issue in the country and their state, one message to their legislator, voter single issue and, in Ohio and Virginia, specific abortion-related supplemental questions. Again, all the data we collect is entered in VAN, the Democratic database. These questions allowed us to pick out abortion voters in the Ohio special election in August (and is the main reason why volunteers and Reproductive Rights orgs in the state eagerly wanted us to continue until the November election in the state.
So, for those of us like me, who contribute to the president’s re-election campaign, even though we know most of the money we donate will be directed into their media budget, this cycle, we can feel good about our donations because early media will be critical to Biden’s success. And, i will be honest, our volunteers get higher response rates when our Democratic candidates are advertising on TV. I cannot explain why.
Moreover, voters tell us they are affected by the very fact that we knock on their door, make sure they are registered at their current address, survey them on political issues, ask if they need public services or have witnessed voter intimidation, fraud or suppression. How do we know that? Because i ask them.
For decades i have had a practice of calling 10 organizers, 10 volunteers and 10 voters each week we were knocking on doors. It started as a way to check up on our volunteers and make sure they are being honest about the work they turn in. So if a volunteer comes back and reports they knocked on 70 doors and talked to 12 voters (with the subsequent paperwork) you can be sure those are the voters i will be calling that week. Hey, it happens. And sometimes, the volunteer is being truthful and sometimes we discourage the volunteer from coming back to knock on doors. The data we are collecting is only meaningful if it is accurate. In cases were volunteers exaggerate their results, we throw those voters back into the pile to canvass (again?) later.
But the voters i do talk to midweek tend to be really honest about this systematic approach Hope Springs from Field uses. Lots of voters tell me how much they appreciate the fact that we ask voters if they want to request public services. I haven’t talked to a whole bunch of voters midweek who actually did fill out a Constituent Service Request form, but they express appreciation for the fact they ask. Volunteers are much more likely to hear from the voters who did fill one out and get their requests honored. And that always excites groups. It definitely makes our volunteers feel like they are doing something good for their communities.
They just like being asked and having the option to address their government. This isn’t the only way that we give voters that kind of opportunity, though. Volunteers also walk with Observation Forms and Q(uestion) Slips. Q-Slips allow us to relay voters questions to candidates and give their campaigns opportunities to respond. Some do and some don’t. But this approach means that volunteers don’t have to be experts in Democratic (or Democratic candidate’s) positions. If a voter asks a volunteer something about the president’s position, we ask them if they want to fill out a Q-slip. These will be passed along to the campaign which has the opportunity to provide an official explanation. We haven’t had anyone (that i know of) ask the president a question, but voters have asked things about other Democrats on their ballot and campaigns have answered them. We especially know that because we have been in Georgia over several cycles now and voters tell us.
But, wait, there is more! You can be an influencer! You, sitting right there, in front of your computer. Yes, YOU! Social media has given numerous people opportunities to help business and celebrities grow in popularity. This is not just a peer-to-peer effect, it is a momentum-building effect, as well.
Starting right after the 2021 November elections in Virginia and Ohio (and Kentucky etc), Hope Springs from Field will be pulling out the cameras to start building Video Chains of supporters who support the President. We will be asking you (yes, YOU!) to endorse the president, get that endorsement on film, pairing your endorsement with other endorsements (including those of celebrities), and using social media and email to spread your endorsement far and wide. This is a project our volunteers are really excited about (yes, we will be starting with our volunteers!) because they have been just as insistent that we need a virtual presence as our donors and commenters have.
So, yes, i hope that everyone takes the opportunity to send what you are comfortable with to Hope Springs from Field. But we want you to endorse the president, as well. We want to center this new social media approach on our community here. We are the excitement! (We have known since electing Ralph Northam governor of Virginia that we don’t necessarily have to have charismatic candidates to win. And while Joe Biden is more charismatic than Northam, he definitely lacks the buzz factor that the last two presidents had. We know from that 2017 campaign that we can replicate that buzz factor, though, by widely incorporating volunteers into the political campaign.
This is why Hope Springs from Field was created. Over the last three years, we have knocked on more than 7 million doors, talked to more than half a million voters and have been inputting the data we collected into VAN, the Democratic database, available to all Democrats who use that database in general elections. So instead of walking into 2024 with our hands tied behind our backs, we go into it with a distinct advantage that we wouldn’t have had in 2020, even if we had chosen to knock on doors during the campaign (many places, Democrats started to do so during GOTV). And we think you can be a crucial part of that advantage.
There doesn’t really seem to be anyone on our side doing this kind of direct, in-person voter contact. Not exactly sure why, but we see every weekend that Republicans — or, rather, conservative orgs — are. We are trying to catch up, although they rely on paid staff while we rely on grassroots volunteers.
If you would like to support our efforts to protect Democratic voters, especially in minority communities, expand the electorate, and believe in grassroots efforts to increase voter participation and election protection, please help:
If you would rather send a check, you can follow that link for our mailing address, as well. Thank you for your support. This work depends on you!