Just how important is door to door campaigning for political candidates in this era of instant electronic communication?
A new study from Harvard Business School found that in-person canvassing during the 2012 French presidential campaign directly increased the vote share of the winning candidate Francois Hollande over Nicolas Sarkozy. Researcher Vincent Pons discovered that having volunteers talk to voters in person boosted Hollande's share of the vote in both the first and second rounds of the election.
Highlighting the power of a five-minute, in-person conversation with a potential voter, Pons concludes that even short discussions have the power to sway important decisions. “This finding may have implications that reach beyond political campaigns to persuasive communication directed at consumers, donors, or investors,” he writes.
Pons notes that most of the voters in the study had never been canvassed before, so the novelty of an in-person visit may have played a role in the success of the campaign. He also points out that France has a multi-party political system, which lends itself to a variety of viewpoints among voters. As he writes, “the diversity of political parties and platforms in France results in weaker partisan affiliations and more frequent changes in vote choice than in bipartisan contexts, such as in the United States.”