Election 2015

Election 2015: Do party canvassers still count?

The age-old tradition of canvassing is a mainstay of every election, so what is it like pounding the streets and knocking hundreds of doors? And with social media playing an ever-increasing role, is it still relevant?

Image copyright Other

Andrew Bloore, 25, is a self-employed carpenter who canvasses for UKIP in Warwickshire and is standing in local council elections there this week.

"I don't like the two-party system, I don't feel represented so I wanted to get involved.

"I didn't bother voting last time. I didn't see the point but I've got into politics now since the [last] European elections so this is my first time of doing this and I like it.

"I want to see what others are thinking - is it the same as me?

"Lots of people are tribal and vote the same way, I want to show them a different option, plus the image of UKIP is of old people and I don't think it is.

"I love it. It's really great fun, my feet are aching a bit but it's really satisfying.

"My friends laughed at me at first but now they've got used to it and said they'll be voting in the election.

"All I've experienced so far is one old man giving me a bit of abuse but the rest of it has been fine.

"I'm confident enough talking to anyone really so I don't feel intimidated and I've found some people like to have a bit of a debate and conversation on their doorstep.

"As far as I'm concerned canvassing will always be necessary in an election.

"Social media may play a big part now but a lot of people over 60 don't use it and they are the ones most likely to vote so you've got to get out and talk to them - there's nothing like a face-to-face conversation."

Image copyright Other

Heather Kidd has been a Liberal Democrat councillor and canvasser in Shropshire since the 1990s. (There are no Shropshire Council elections in May.)

"Canvassing is very important for us.

"When you have such large constituencies like we do in Shropshire, as it's such a large, rural area, the work of volunteers is vital.

"You need a good team and the more you have the better you will be.

"People do all sorts - stuffing leaflets, putting posters up, taking leaflets to the post office, collecting leaflets from the printers. If you didn't have volunteers, it'd cost you an arm and a leg.

"Overall, people are more sceptical these days I think. I've been told 'I'm not bothering to vote, you lot do what you want anyway, what's the point?'

"But young people I've met on the doorstep are much more open minded.

"The feedback we get time and time again is that people hate politicians having a go at one another. It's a real problem.

"But that face-to-face contact you have while out and about is vital even though it's so time consuming.

"We know we've got about five or six seconds before a leaflet goes in the bin but you've got to do as much as possible and you need to know what the are issues that people have because Shropshire is so diverse.

"Using social media is great and it has its place, but you can't just use that, you need the whole thing and canvassing is as important as it's ever been."

Michelle Edinburgh lives in Shirley and is standing for the Green party for the first time in local elections in the town this week.

"There's nothing like meeting someone to get a sense of character from them.

"Are they positive, or trustworthy or genuinely listening for example, these are things I value in a candidate.

"I've found people have all sorts of ideas and there's lots of misleading information out there but canvassing has opened my eyes in lots of ways.

"At first it's a bit intimidating but you need to stick with it.

"Some people are not interested, or don't have the time and I get that, they're frustrated at having to answer the door, I do try to keep it brief.

"But you get a brief glimpse of what's upsetting them - you are doing a public service, you're reminding people to think, to vote, even if they don't like your colour, I think they appreciate the effort.

"Is all that work worth it? Yes, I feel it is.

"There's a lot of apathy and cynicism out there and I was like that too until I got involved... sometimes people want to take out their anger with the system on you so that's tricky.

"In the future, I can't see any big change in the way we do things.

"Voting by email or electronically or something, people say well, that could be open to abuse and emails can be junked, the good old fashioned way is fairly clear cut and it's vital we don't corrupt it.

"When people vote, things do change and I see canvassing as sowing the seeds and I haven't heard about another convincing way of doing it."

Bryan Gall canvasses for the Conservative Party in Worcestershire and helped the party for 14 general elections.

"I don't believe you change the minds of people on the doorstep, but you can show them the local branch of the party is interested in them.

"I can't recall a situation after a conversation with a Labour voter where I got them to change their mind.

"It gives people an impetus to vote more than anything.

"Canvassing definitely provides a feedback of how well a campaign is going in a constituency and the party can beef up their operation if needed.

"But people are disaffected now more than ever and it's more difficult to engage with people on the doorstep.

"Although, I'd like to think the public have a quite favourable opinion of canvassers.

"We have always had the same number of people out - about 40 to 50.

"One bad memory I have was being bitten by a dog in the late 1970s when putting leaflets through a letterbox.

"Canvassing will always happen as social media does not have an impact because a lot of voters aren't aware of it.

"The grey vote is extremely important and for that reason the parties continue it."

The Labour Party was asked for an interview but declined.