102 times more effective than traditional electioneering efforts
October 26, 2020 10:52 AM   Subscribe

How We Got Voters to Change Their Mind: "We don't try to directly persuade people to change their minds on a candidate or an issue. Rather, we create intimacy, in the faith that people have an ability to reexamine their politics, and their long-term worldview, if given the right context. We’ve found that when people start to see the dissonance between what they believe and what they actually want, their views change—many of them come around to a more progressive perspective."

Can Millions of Deep Conversations With Total Strangers Beat Trump — and Heal America?
But the experiments that Broockman, who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and Kalla, who teaches at Yale, ran involving deep canvassing told a different story. They’ve now conducted half a dozen major studies and, each time, as the data come in, they find measurable effects on prejudice and certain public policies that last much longer than the TV ads and short-form canvassing. One of the key ingredients, they say, is stories — about a marginalized group of people, about a time you were treated differently, but really any personal story. Another was showing respect to the person on the other end of the conversation, no matter how much you disliked or disagreed with them. “We just kept finding in study after study these results,” Broockman says. “Every time we do this, we seem to find this again and again and again.”
These scientists keep proving that reducing prejudice is possible. It’s just not easy:
In 2018, Kalla and Broockman published a meta-analysis of 49 experiments that were designed to test whether voters are persuadable by conventional means: phone calls, television ads, traditional canvassing, and so on. In aggregate, it turns out these tactics don’t work at all.

The effects of most efforts to change people’s minds on an issue, if successful at all, tend to fade over time. The impact of television ads, in particular, can fade in just a week. Deep canvassing, it appears from the research, has an effect that can last for several months.

“These deep conversations, I suspect, may be more cost-effective in the long run because the impacts are durable,” Serrano says.
[previously]
[even more previously]
posted by Ouverture (47 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does it come as a surprise that when you treat people with respect and listen with compassion instead of essentially advertising to them, you achieve better results?
posted by thoughtful_jester at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2020 [21 favorites]


That's really interesting. I'm a longtime canvasser for the Democrats. (I'm doing phone-banking this time around, but I *hate* it, and I'll go back to canvassing as soon as it's safe.) We mostly do get-out-the-vote stuff, because persuasion is super labor-intensive and not as productive: it's easier to convince a supporter to vote than to convince a non-supporter to change their mind. But this is actually pretty similar to the way that I was trained to do persuasion. The goal is to have a real conversation, to listen more than you talk, and to connect about shared values, rather than about specific policies. And I've definitely found that it works better with women than with men, partly because men don't want to connect with me. They want to explain things to me. I've actually always wondered if men would be more amenable to persuasion if it were coming from other men, whom they would not automatically treat as a captive opportunity for mansplaining.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2020 [56 favorites]


oh man where is my tardis. i want to go and textbank with this stuff months ago.
posted by lalochezia at 11:25 AM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


(and i realize texting can't create the intimacy of a conversation)
posted by lalochezia at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2020


Does it come as a surprise that when you treat people with respect and listen with compassion instead of essentially advertising to them, you achieve better results?

What was the ethnic breakdown of the researchers versus the researched?
posted by infini at 11:35 AM on October 26, 2020 [13 favorites]


I feel like the framing of this is making a bit of a straw man of its 'opponent.' Advertising isn't attempting to change minds. It's ether reminding supporters to go vote or demoralizing opponents to stay home.

Furthermore, I don't think this would be news to experience campaign managers. It's just, if they can run an ad that reminds 1,000 people why they should vote, they might get 100 of them voting. To convince 50 people (for a 100 person swing) to change their vote would require as much, if not more, resources.
posted by lownote at 11:46 AM on October 26, 2020 [13 favorites]


I have no difficulty believing that open, compassionate, thoughtful conversations can win over hearts and minds. The issue is that the radicalizing propaganda that "broke" America can be done - is being done - via mass media, and algorithmic manipulation of mass media.

In other words: the healing they've found success with is via handcrafted, artisanal conversations, but the damage they're trying to heal is being done on an industrialized, mass-manufactured scale. It's reassuring to know that we can indeed win people back over, but can we win them over faster than they're being lost? If an asshole like Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson can twist the hearts and minds of a million people via, say, 500 hours of content, how do you compete when your solution is to spend a half an hour or more on each one of those people? Basically: this solution is great on an individual level, but how do you scale it up?

At best, it seems to me like a partial solution: we can heal, slowly but surely, but only if we stop the ongoing damage first.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2020 [69 favorites]


What was the ethnic breakdown of the researchers versus the researched?

And following up on A & C's comment, what was the gender breakdown of the phone-bankers versus the phoned?
posted by tzikeh at 11:56 AM on October 26, 2020 [5 favorites]


I've been trying to practice this and it's hard! Keeping the conversation moving forward, knowing when to introduce a personal story, guiding the direction of the discussion while still listening more than talking - these things are not easy. But I am totally sold. It's a relative of Motivational Interviewing, a therapeutic technique developed for working with people who are using alcohol to excess. There is an underlying respect inherent in the model that has an almost spiritual component.
posted by latkes at 11:56 AM on October 26, 2020 [7 favorites]


What infini and tzikeh said immediately came to my mind, too. These kinds of conversations can help change people's minds, but many of them will refuse to have them with entire categories of people.
posted by Lonnrot at 11:58 AM on October 26, 2020 [8 favorites]


It's just, if they can run an ad that reminds 1,000 people why they should vote, they might get 100 of them voting.

I want your advertising people, because they are gods (and I believe they exist as much as gods). Conversion rates are < 1% usually, not 10%!
posted by lalochezia at 12:04 PM on October 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


Oh, and one of the new Democratic organizing strategies, which comes out of Pete Buttigieg's campaign, is relational organizing, which is training supporters to organize people they know. The idea is that, rather than trying to persuade some random person whose door you knock, you try to persuade your friends, neighbors, and the people in your book group. I actually find that more stressful than dealing with strangers, but you can see how it would be more effective.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:22 PM on October 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


Like you're telling me that if I do all the emotional labour in a relationship with a man-baby, they might suddenly grow up and become a fully functional empathic adult? Pull the other leg?
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:22 PM on October 26, 2020 [36 favorites]


At best, it seems to me like a partial solution: we can heal, slowly but surely, but only if we stop the ongoing damage first.

I mean, to reflect this back to you, how do you propose we stop the ongoing damage? It isn't as though Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or worse, Facebook/Twitter radicalization bubbles are going away just because we desperately want them to. And to take away the focus from committed conservative voters, there is still a gigantic population of undecided and unengaged voters that cannot be reached by traditional electioneering. The importance of persuading people who aren't already on board is even more important given the state of gerrymandering and voter suppression across much of the country.

The defeatism is striking; what is the other alternative? Retreat into blue state bastions and write off all the poor people, queer people, and people of color who can't afford to move out of proto-Gilead as we experience ecological collapse?

Maybe it's easier for white people or white men to do this work...but isn't that what we have been asking of them since forever? To use their privilege for good? Besides, as a queer person of color, my own experiences in leftist organizing have taught me that people, even the most regressive ones, are far more persuadable than liberal leaders have long said otherwise.

None of these articles say this was going to be easy. But I would love to hear what the alternative is.
posted by Ouverture at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2020 [15 favorites]


> None of these articles say this was going to be easy. But I would love to hear what the alternative is.

mstokes is spot on. The most urgent damage being done is via mass media and propaganda aimed at large swathes of society. (And this is in tandem with long-standing defunding of public education and cut-throat policies against civic engagement of all kinds from purging voters from lists to union busting).

While this article is right about what changes people's minds about their deeply held beliefs, the people with differing beliefs are not the opponent, and their differing beliefs are not even the correct problem we need to be solving.

If it was, we'd truly be screwed. There's no way anyone can engage with so. many. people. at a personal level, create camaraderie and intimacy with them, allow them to process the underlying reasons for their political opinions enough that the ugliness inherent becomes apparent to them, build enough safety that they can acknowledge the ugliness, and form a strong enough relationship that motivates them to change. That's literally therapy and there's a reason it costs a lot of money! Motivational interviewing is slow, painstaking work that can usually only be done by professionals with advanced degrees.

But no, the problem we have is propaganda in the media and anti-public-services political policy. The solution to these problems is purely political and therefore much less daunting than changing people's minds:

Step 1 - build a larger voter base than the voters who disagree with you and

Step 2 - elect officials who are committed to reinvigorating public services and to correcting our catastrophic failure to protect American citizens from propaganda served up by foreign attackers. (Like literally that's what's been happening - starting with Rupert Murdoch down to Russian bots on social media.)

This is super doable. And the best part is, none of us need to gently hold a fascist misogynist racist cop's hand to achieve it. Reining in propaganda automatically and immediately ends the most urgent problem of people who think Clinton ate a baby in the basement of a pizza place (or whatever)... and as for larger racism, misogyny, etc., we can leave the work of creating safe spaces for re-educating the misguided to public school teachers - hopefully well paid ones.
posted by MiraK at 12:26 PM on October 26, 2020 [16 favorites]


I'm a little disheartened by all the comments saying this is actually pointless and we shouldn't bother. No one is telling you specifically to go do any of this. But apparently it can work. Like, yay. Good. That's good information to have.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:40 PM on October 26, 2020 [39 favorites]


It isn't "defeatism" to point out that the industrial-scale mass-media propaganda used by the right reaches several orders of magnitude more people the the artisanal one-to-one approach, no matter how effective the latter may be.

Suggesting we "retreat into blue state bastions" smacks of a straw man in an election where the Democrats are breaking early voting records, even in states like Texas, despite that many peoples' preferred candidates didn't get the nomination.

Republicans gerrymander, suppress voters, and retreat into their own information bubble because they know they're a minority and they know their ideas can't withstand a good-faith debate. The Democrats' challenge is to maintain the coalition they've put together and the use legislative levers to dilute Republican power.

It seems clear that to protect vulnerable populations, one of the first orders of business, should Democrats win the trifecta, is to expand the judiciary (and not just the SCOTUS).
posted by Gelatin at 12:41 PM on October 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


If it was, we'd truly be screwed. There's no way anyone can engage with so. many. people. at a personal level, create camaraderie and intimacy with them, allow them to process the underlying reasons for their political opinions enough that the ugliness inherent becomes apparent to them, build enough safety that they can acknowledge the ugliness, and form a strong enough relationship that motivates them to change. That's literally therapy and there's a reason it costs a lot of money! Motivational interviewing is slow, painstaking work that can usually only be done by professionals with advanced degrees.

As the articles point out, deep canvassing is not done by professionals with advanced degrees. It also does not take hours upon hours.

I also don't disagree with you about the role of foreign propaganda. But I don't understand why this is being framed as a mutually exclusive, zero-sum issue. Nor does it address the fact that a lot of the worst aspects of the current reactionary moment, like Q Anon, are largely homegrown and don't need foreign influence. They will also be around a lot longer than Trump will.

It's funny how everyone's minds go straight to the most right-wing Republican imaginable. What about all the people who don't vote?

Moreover, Democrats have had a larger voter base than Republicans for a long time. But due to the electoral college, voter suppression, and gerrymandering, just how much good has that done for us?
posted by Ouverture at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


There's no way anyone can engage with so. many. people. at a personal level, create camaraderie and intimacy with them, allow them to process the underlying reasons for their political opinions enough that the ugliness inherent becomes apparent to them, build enough safety that they can acknowledge the ugliness, and form a strong enough relationship that motivates them to change.

You may be right that this method doesn't scale. But in my experience, which lately is union organizing in my own workplace, there is absolutely no replacement for having meaningful, one-on-one conversations with every single worker, if you want to win a specific campaign. You can't win 100% of people over with these conversations, but if you don't have those conversations, you won't win anyone over.
posted by latkes at 12:48 PM on October 26, 2020 [27 favorites]


You may be right that this method doesn't scale. But in my experience, which lately is union organizing in my own workplace, there is absolutely no replacement for having meaningful, one-on-one conversations with every single worker, if you want to win a specific campaign. You can't win 100% of people over with these conversations, but if you don't have those conversations, you won't win anyone over.

It's also important to note that you don't need to win 100% of voters over. In America, electoral victories are binary: one side either got more votes than the other side, or they didn't. Some elections can be decided by a relative handful of votes.

I did not realize people were interpreting this as an exhortation to go do this. If you don't want to or can't or whatever, please don't. But it is useful information to have, even outside of elections.

For example, I have met so many white liberals and leftists who brag to me about how they don't talk to their families anymore because of their racism. And I'm just like...fuck, why don't you? I get those conversations are hard, but you know what's worse? Living under white supremacy and racial capitalism.
posted by Ouverture at 12:52 PM on October 26, 2020 [20 favorites]


I'm a little disheartened by all the comments saying this is actually pointless and we shouldn't bother.

I think it's excellent information and a great tool in our arsenal if people we love end up falling prey to the propagandists and conspiracy theorists. What's in this article is useful as a "How To Have A Transformative Thanksgiving Break With Your Racist Family This Year".

But it is pointless to use this technique for persuading voters while canvassing. That's what we shouldn't bother doing. Persuading voters from the other side is a complete waste of time because it takes too long and it doesn't scale. Our efforts are far better spent persuading (and enabling) our base to vote! Some day when we have >95% of all eligible voters not only registered and safely on the rolls but also turning out to vote, and we are still struggling to win elections, perhaps then it would make sense to spend time and effort persuading the other side. But don't start painstakingly sawing wood to build ladders to reach the top of the tree when we're picking fewer than 50% of the low hanging fruit.
posted by MiraK at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


This may be true for some campaigns not others. Referendums on unpopular but morally necessary civil rights issues do require some persuasion, for one frequent example. That's what the research highlighted in the above articles is mostly focused on.
posted by latkes at 12:57 PM on October 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


> Referendums on unpopular but morally necessary civil rights issues do require some persuasion

... persuasion that's best done via mass media or large scale demonstrations or hashtag activism or other scalable methods of consciousness-raising and consensus building. Seriously, strangers going door-to-door talking sense into people one by one is not how any civil rights have ever been won.
posted by MiraK at 1:00 PM on October 26, 2020


What's pointless is using this technique for persuading voters while canvassing.

Why is this pointless? As The Atlantic article points out:
So far, more than 3 percent of the voters we’ve engaged have switched from planning to vote for Donald Trump to planning to vote for Joe Biden. Even more significant, 8.5 percent of women independents—and 4.9 percent of women overall—said they planned to change their vote to Biden. David Broockman and Josh Kalla, academics who measure what helps shift hearts and minds, told me this persuasion rate is 102 times more effective than traditional electioneering efforts aimed at persuading people to change their vote. On average, these exchanges took 15 minutes.
And from the Rolling Stone article:
Broockman and Kalla had studied at Yale University under the renowned political scientists Alan Gerber and Donald Green, who had pioneered the use of field experiments in politics to measure what actually works to persuade potential voters. In their own research, Broockman and Kalla ran experiments using the traditional tools of politics — short phone calls, brief door-to-door canvassing, and TV ads — and found that they typically had almost no lasting effect on changing the mind of a typical voter.

But the experiments that Broockman, who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and Kalla, who teaches at Yale, ran involving deep canvassing told a different story. They’ve now conducted half a dozen major studies and, each time, as the data come in, they find measurable effects on prejudice and certain public policies that last much longer than the TV ads and short-form canvassing. One of the key ingredients, they say, is stories — about a marginalized group of people, about a time you were treated differently, but really any personal story. Another was showing respect to the person on the other end of the conversation, no matter how much you disliked or disagreed with them. “We just kept finding in study after study these results,” Broockman says. “Every time we do this, we seem to find this again and again and again.”
I don't think 100% of every campaign's effort and funding should be focused on deep canvassing (I don't think anyone has said that?), but as the research shows, it can be a critical tool. And given the intense Pareto effect in swing states and districts, what does it matter if it can scale or not?

Do you have any data that indicates it is actually "pointless"?
posted by Ouverture at 1:02 PM on October 26, 2020 [8 favorites]


What about all the people who don't vote?

Yeah I think the notion that there’s a hard line between persuading people to move across ideological lines and activating “the base” is not entirely correct. Or at least, I don’t see why similar tactics wouldn’t be relevant.
posted by atoxyl at 1:08 PM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


But I don't understand why this is being framed as a mutually exclusive, zero-sum issue.

I don't see anyone framing it that way? I called it a "partial solution" and I don't see anyone in this thread even faintly suggesting the idea that we just "give up and retreat into blue states" except you. Not trying to call you out, but it feels to me like maybe you're doing that thing of bringing some baggage into this thread relating to other conversations you've had around or adjacent to this topic, moreso than responding to the things people are actually writing here.

I'm just saying that no phone bank, no matter how well-staffed and well-trained, is ever going to be able to compete with the reach of Rupert Murdoch. Not because phone banks don't work, but because they are literally orders of magnitude more labor-intensive than churning out Fox "News". And it is not, in any way, impossible to push back against propaganda (be it foreign or domestic*) being dressed up as "news", nor it is impossible to fight the Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/etc. algorithms which abet the spread of hateful propaganda**. Nor does fighting propaganda in any way take away the value of winning people back. In the long term, to build a better world and a less polarized USA, we need to do both.

*I recommend following Brooke Binkowski and Renee DiResta on Twitter, the former for keeping an eye on sources of online disinfo and the latter for analysis of the bot networks that help it spread.

**Seriously, check out Facebook's Top 10 (link goes to a Twitter feed that rounds up the top-performing Facebook link posts every day, following the link won't give clicks to garbage) and be horrified/dismayed. That is what we're up against.

posted by mstokes650 at 1:09 PM on October 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


Here's a story: I just went on strike at work. A year ago, we had a chapter of 3000 healthcare workers who were pretty disorganized, somewhat bitter about 'the union', and zero percent ready to strike. Along with flyers and a website and a facebook page etc, we got a list of every member and did our darnedest to have one-on-one conversations with every single member. Sure, the flyers helped. After I talked to each person, I'd hand them the flyer, so they could read more later. Or find the website listed on it to check later. But in person I could answer their questions, and make the case why striking can work. At the outset of these conversations, a lot of folks were pretty negative. We couldn't even get many people to join our members facebook group to get updates that way. But after those conversations, when we finally got ready to take our strike vote, 98% voted to strike. And right after the strike, the county fired the entire Board of Trustees who are responsible for managing the health system - an outcome that would have been unlikely if the strike and follow up actions had been low-participation.
posted by latkes at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2020 [44 favorites]


Red Wine and Blue
We tap into the power of women telling their stories.
posted by maggieb at 1:16 PM on October 26, 2020


And I've definitely found that it works better with women than with men, partly because men don't want to connect with me. They want to explain things to me. I've actually always wondered if men would be more amenable to persuasion if it were coming from other men, whom they would not automatically treat as a captive opportunity for mansplaining.

As a man who finds a large portion of his conversations with other men contain a whole lot of mansplaining -- especially in certain workplace contexts -- I'd guess the answer is "maybe! but also sometimes not so much."

My working theory is that people have a default conversational goal they usually work for: establish affinity, establish value, establish understanding, establish dominance are among the possibilities. It varies by temperament, and there's probably some patterns by gender. By temperament and by experience with how they're rewarded, men tend to default to "value" or "dominance" and then maybe "understanding" in that order, "affinity" in niche situations. "Value" is probably the thing that results in the cringe comedy of Rebecca Solnit getting her book on Muybridge mansplained to her by a party guest who is slow to catch on that she wrote it -- the poor sap is at some level trying to demonstrate that he's valuable as a conversational partner/fount of knowledge, but too eagerly to adapt to the reality of the conversation he's in. "Understanding" can accidentally veer this way (hazard potentially on display in my comment here?). "Dominance" is different, there's no attempt to prove that you have something to offer or contribute to pieces of a puzzle, it's all about telling others they need to prove themselves to VIP or VIP's values and by the way your puzzle sucks let VIP pick the puzzle (HI D*N*LD TR*MP).

I do think there are men who by acculturation or by a tendency to self-entitlement believe they have a right to dominance over women. I think there are more men who feel compelled to prove value... but do it without realizing their model of what they have to offer to any individual (man or woman) might not be the reality.

The deep canvasing approach seems to lean first on affinity and then on developing an understanding, so where there are men whose reflex with respect to women is dominance or value, then yeah, cross-gender work is going to be extra difficult. On the other hand, some people have that reflex towards *everyone*, and it's gonna be an uphill battle even dude-to-dude.

All that said I'm somewhat optimistic about deep canvasing. I think there are conservatives with a deep rooted sense of civility and neighborliness to whom it can appeal and may counter some of the garbage piped in certain media bubbles.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2020 [7 favorites]


There's no way anyone can engage with so. many. people. at a personal level, create camaraderie and intimacy with them
“The name of the game is to talk to people. If you don’t talk to people, you can’t get started…You knock on twenty doors or so, and twenty guys tell you to go to hell, or that they haven’t got time. But maybe at the fortieth or sixtieth house you find the one guy who is all you need. You’re not going to organize everything; you’re just going to get it started." — Cesar Chavez
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:42 PM on October 26, 2020 [14 favorites]


I don't know if anyone was using the phrases "deep canvassing" or "relational organizing" but I've talked before about being a low-level volunteer in the 2008 Obama and 2016 Clinton campaigns and how deeply different the two experiences were when it came to strategy.

The short version is that in 2008, we were trained to note down what reluctance a voter might have had with Obama (anything from his name to racial hostility to policy differences). Based on that, a higher-level person in the campaign would then figure out how to target that voter. There was no such thing in 2016: either voters were on board with Hillary Clinton or they weren't. There was no notion that persuasion might be important the way there was in 2008.

That, more than anything, is one of the major factors in why I think Clinton's campaign was toast from the outset. So I am glad to see anything that makes a case for the importance of, and diversity of approaches to, persuasion in politics.
posted by mostly vowels at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2020 [19 favorites]


strangers going door-to-door talking sense into people one by one is not how any civil rights have ever been won.

This is how movements are built, historically, and how you get people who have generally aligned values but are skeptical or scared or have a very different understanding of how the world works and thus how to apply those aligned values to join your movement.
posted by eviemath at 1:55 PM on October 26, 2020 [5 favorites]


Yeah just to clarify: I'm not here to take a brave stand against deep canvassing, I don't object to anyone doing it or spending resources on doing it. I'm not convinced it's effective/worth it in 2020, for various reasons, but I shouldn't even be talking about that here because this is y'all's parade, this is something you believe in, and not my intellectual exercise to argue against. Sorry about my comments earlier.
posted by MiraK at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


I also think that we tend to underestimate how much this kind of organizing is fueling the conservative movement, especially with white women. It's not all Fox News. It's also the women's small group at your Evangelical megachurch. It's the friendly, relatable Bible study leader who organized the meal train when your dad had surgery and who stops by to remind you that sure Donald Trump is crass, and she too wishes he would stop tweeting, but when it comes right down to it, you have to vote for the guy who is going to stop the murder of unborn babies. White evangelicals have made a science of relational organizing, and the left hasn't even begun to figure out how to make inroads with the people they target.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2020 [28 favorites]


Scaling deep canvassing so that it could compete with industrialised propaganda:

Many of us vote along identity lines. So one changed mind in a family could cascade, leading to other changed minds?

Also: Time consuming deep canvassing could be combined with targeting to increase effectiveness? E.g. Attempting deep canvassing with local social media influencers or hosts of local orgs (that would usually not be considered for lobbying)?
posted by Speculatist at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


Like you're telling me that if I do all the emotional labour in a relationship with a man-baby, they might suddenly grow up and become a fully functional empathic adult? Pull the other leg?

Personal experience over the course of several years discussing politics in a local (but mostly online) community makes me somewhat skeptical. Regular happy hours among participants and the forum owner's diligence in quickly banning obvious trolls certainly helped to keep the vitriol contained to some small degree, or at least keep it from turning into a long-held grudge, but the only thing that really got through to the Bush men was it becoming clear that his dismal performance had doomed McCain's campaign to failure.

Maybe it softened some stances a bit, but it did nothing to combat the easy acceptance of obvious propaganda, the justification of immoral and outright illegal acts because "the ends justify the means," or reliance on magical thinking.

It did feel like it was possible to change the opinion, or at least the outward behavior of people who were more in the middle and inclined to be skeptical of their chosen side, but the people who were all in on the cult stayed that way.
posted by wierdo at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


Oh, and one of the new Democratic organizing strategies, which comes out of Pete Buttigieg's campaign, is relational organizing, which is training supporters to organize people they know. The idea is that, rather than trying to persuade some random person whose door you knock, you try to persuade your friends, neighbors, and the people in your book group. I actually find that more stressful than dealing with strangers, but you can see how it would be more effective.

I've been trying to do this by scrolling through my Facebook friends list, looking at each person's profile to see where they stand on things, then seeing if any opportunities for conversation around any of their recent posts stand out. It's been frustrating to me, trying to do this, because it's so slow. I haven't gotten very far in my friends' list. But I can say from experience that it actually can work and can make a difference.

I'm from St. Louis, and back in 2014, during months of protest in Ferguson, especially during the intense early days after Michael Brown's death, I suspended my personal prohibition against arguing with people online. I remember being frustrated, feeling like all the personal conversations I was having with people in Facebook comments, telling them my opinion and my experiences and hashing out these deep questions of race and justice and police brutality, weren't having the immediate effect I wanted. But now, years later, I can tell you that I've been pleasantly surprised to find that some of the people I never thought I could convince, but with whom I did my best to engage in respectful dialogue and conversation, have actually changed their minds—including one guy I went to school with whose brother is actually a police officer.

I remember the way he had relentlessly trolled my posts about justice for Mike Brown early on, and how frustrating it had been to see his comments pop up on my and my allies' posts, but also how intensely personal it was for him, thinking about his brother in the line of danger. But now he's the one making his own posts about Black Lives Matter and the need for justice. So...it can work. It just takes some arduous, patient conversation with people who may not initially recognize the humanity of the people you support, relating to them as a person. I'd argue this is maybe one of the most important things we—white people—could be doing right now with our friends, families, and acquaintances. It is up to us, and to avoid doing so is an abdication of our responsibility to "get our people," so to speak, and fix a problem with our white family members' and neighbors' outlook that possibly only we can fix.

I'm not saying everyone can be reached this way, of course. Social media and search algorithms are creating some really difficult things to combat, like epistemic closure, which I still don't have a handle on. But it sounds like what they're finding is that kind, deep conversation can start to make inroads there, too, if not with everyone, at least with a significant enough percentage of people that it can make a difference. And that might be all we need.
posted by limeonaire at 2:55 PM on October 26, 2020 [9 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has yet cited an amazing example of relational organizing: QAnon. It's an example where many people were pulled in and persuaded not by mass media but by individual advocates using some (although of course not all) of the techniques discussed in the original articles. I am NOT saying it's 100% overlap, but it is an example where individual communicators (Karens on FB!) have managed to do terrifyingly, indisputably effective 1-2-4-8-16-32-64 political organizing.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:09 PM on October 26, 2020 [7 favorites]


*clicks Facebook top 10 link*

What is a dan bonjee-know?
posted by freecellwizard at 3:22 PM on October 26, 2020


Maybe this wouldn't scale for a national election, but there are plenty of elections that take place at a level where this approach seems workable. A lot of local elections and issues are decided by very few votes.
posted by Emily's Fist at 3:42 PM on October 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


My one thought is that for many people dealing with discrimination, abuse, microaggressions, this level of intimacy with people is exhausting. And that's why this is very interesting, "The canvassers also share their own stories: about being an immigrant, about being a member of the LGBTQ community, or about just knowing people who are."

If allies can simply tell stories about people they know to accomplish this, that is an incredibly important discovery.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 4:29 PM on October 26, 2020 [10 favorites]


It seems you could use deep canvassing tactically. Roll it out in force in the swing states perhaps, where every vote could be a critical one.
posted by storybored at 5:05 PM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


I also think that we tend to underestimate how much this kind of organizing is fueling the conservative movement, especially with white women. It's not all Fox News. It's also the women's small group at your Evangelical megachurch. It's the friendly, relatable Bible study leader who organized the meal train when your dad had surgery and who stops by to remind you that sure Donald Trump is crass, and she too wishes he would stop tweeting, but when it comes right down to it, you have to vote for the guy who is going to stop the murder of unborn babies. White evangelicals have made a science of relational organizing, and the left hasn't even begun to figure out how to make inroads with the people they target.

I think this is very accurate, and I also think it plays into a lot of how the major parties are perceived in this country. We may know, intellectually (and even have the statistics to back it up) that progressive policies help more people, prevent more suffering, result in better outcomes for people, but if the Republican talking points get delivered via a personal acquaintance who has actually personally helped you out, while the Democratic talking points get delivered via an unsolicited text from a stranger, or a flyer, or a newspaper column, or a rich Hollywood celeb's twitter feed...well, the Republican stuff gets mentally associated with "helpful people" and the Democratic stuff gets mentally associated with "distant, not actually connected to me and my life". And that ends up being how the parties are perceived, actual policies and behaviors in office be damned.

I think DSA mutual aid groups can do work along these lines, and I do think they can a big positive difference in the long run, but they've got a long way to go to catch up to the networks of established evangelical churches, for example.
posted by mstokes650 at 5:33 PM on October 26, 2020 [10 favorites]


a lot of the worst aspects of the current reactionary moment, like Q Anon, are largely homegrown and don't need foreign influence

Do we know for a fact that QAnon is homegrown?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:33 AM on October 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has yet cited an amazing example of relational organizing: QAnon. It's an example where many people were pulled in and persuaded not by mass media but by individual advocates using some (although of course not all) of the techniques discussed in the original articles. I am NOT saying it's 100% overlap, but it is an example where individual communicators (Karens on FB!) have managed to do terrifyingly, indisputably effective 1-2-4-8-16-32-64 political organizing.

This is similar to the terrifying rise of the fascist RSS/BJP in India. They do plenty of traditional advertising-based electioneering, but what really got people to vote for, and more importantly, march for the fascists was on-the-ground deep engagement.

Do we know for a fact that QAnon is homegrown?
Academics who study QAnon said there were no signs Russia had a hand in the early days of the movement, which launched in 2017 with anonymous web postings amplified by YouTube videos.
Russia/Iran/China/etc are certainly trying to exploit it for their own purposes, but it isn't as though Republican politicians need any foreign help to leverage Q Anon for their own benefit.
posted by Ouverture at 6:48 AM on October 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


QAnon seems mostly a product of viral, inflammatory social media, some of which may be deliberately engineered to take advantage of algorithms. That's got nothing to do with relational organizing.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:42 AM on October 27, 2020


Deep canvassing, in my opinion, is much too close to religious folks knocking on my door, trying to have a personal conversation about why I haven't accepted X into my life as my savior. I would have none of it no matter what side of the political spectrum I was on. It feels way too squicky to me.

Maybe it works for some, but even as dedicated as I am to ending the political polarization here in the US, I wouldn't be able to make myself do this.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2020


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