Wednesday, February 27, 2008

campaign tactics

I may be giving away some "competitive intelligence" here, but since my object isn't just to win but to serve my community in running, I'll tell you about some of my tactical decisions which you may find interesting.

The spreadsheet that Canada Post sends on request for Beverly - Clareview has some serious errors in it and might be full of errors for all I know. They've got a bunch of T5Y letter carrier routes on there that are supposed to be 100% in the riding but when I checked the LC route maps elsewhere I noticed they were 100% outside the riding! So when their spreadsheet tells me there are X number of houses in the riding and Y number of apartments, I know that that number is overcounting a lot of houses unless there are counterbalancing un-included LC routes that should have been included. Now I'd tell you what X and Y are, but Canada Post says their data is "confidential" and "use restricted to preparing mail for Canada Post delivery".

But even if their number is off, fact is I still only have enough brochures to hit perhaps a quarter of all residences. For the rest, I am more or less dependent on people hearing about my party in the media or seeing my signs and then googling my name or my party's name. I do have on there but that's only going to be picked up by pedestrian traffic.

So the question becomes, who do I hit with my flyers and, of them, who should be mailed and who hand-delivered? I doorknocked a bit without brochures early in the campaign but that was only about 100 to 150 homes. Avoiding overlap with those homes is not a major concern.

Doorknocking houses is obviously easier than apartments. It is faster once you are in an apartment, but unless it is a really big or high end complex such that you've got a custodian consistently available to buzz and lecture about how the Elections Act requires allowing my entry between 9 and 9 each day, you are unable to get in just anytime. Also, even if the custodian lets you in, you'll occasionally be asked by a resident who let you in. After all, apartment dwellers do not frequently have guests who have not buzzed them in advance. These facts suggest that apartments and condos should be mailed.

And mail them I did, having decided to send half of my brochures on the three different letter carrier routes that were 90% or more in-riding and with the highest proportion of apartments.

But this means some houses will get no brochures. My official agent argued that people in apartments don't vote. Having done some doorknocking in apartments and lower end townhouses I'd have to agree the level of interest in politics is lower than houses, which says a lot given that interest from house-dwellers is pretty limited already. But the counter-argument is that the polling I've seen and my experience in the streets indicates our party skews young in terms of who is more open to us. If a 20-something is living in a house it is probably his or her parents! To hit those younger voters and what I also suspect are also more undecided voters I figured I needed to hit apartments and condos. I also reckoned that my literature would face less competition because the other parties would go light on apartments unless they had the money to burn.

Part of my thinking was also that after the election, I could look at the individual poll results and try and estimate what sort of return I got from the apartment complexes I brochured through the mail vs the houses I brochured on foot. This election will help me learn for next time. Now it might not be a fair comparison because while on foot I often have personal contact with people in their driveway or on the sidewalk, and I also ring the doorbell when there is reason to believe that someone is both in the house and likely to answer the door quickly. In addition, I skip houses with solely Liberal or solely NDP lawn signs when the location suggests that the homeowner requested the sign as opposed to the sign being pushed on them by partisan campaign workers coveting their sign friendly location. That skipping likely improves my "on foot yield" since placed brochures are less likely to be going to voters I can't turn. I believe I can control for this, however, by comparing what I brochured myself against what a volunteer has brochured for me.

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