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Op/ed: Should Presidential Campaigns Ditch the Door-Knocking?

Experts Say Success of Voter Outreach Tactics Depends on Who’s Doing the Work—and Where

By Dana R. Fisher and Lara Putnam

Canvasser stands at a door

Photo by AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Joey Prestley, a staff canvasser for the Progressive Turnout Project, stands 6 feet away while waiting to talk to a voter in northwest Denver in June. In an essay, UMD sociology Professor Dana R. Fisher and University of Pittsburgh Research Professor Lara Putnam argue that the health imperatives of COVID-19, coupled with the rise of grassroots groups on the political left united against the Trump administration, may have changed the calculus on pushing voters to the polls.

In the midst of a tense presidential election cycle buzzing with talk of voter fraud and foreign intervention, and which both sides are portraying as make-or-break for the country, the Biden campaign’s lack of door-to-door efforts is drawing scrutiny.

In an essay in The American Prospect, sociology Professor Dana R. Fisher of the University of Maryland and Research Professor Lara Putnam of the University of Pittsburgh argue that the health imperatives of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the rise of grassroots groups on the political left united against the Trump administration, may have changed the calculus on pushing voters to the polls.

In early August, the Trump re-election effort was already boasting that it was knocking on more than one million doors a week. The Biden campaign has so far avoided face-to-face voter outreach entirely, citing health risks from COVID-19. Instead, it is using digital tools to direct all its volunteers into phone-banking and text-banking. Voicing increasing concern, some Democratic candidates and local groups have decided to coordinate their own door-knocking anyway.

Who is wrong? Or is it possible that the Biden campaign and local Democratic groups, which have made opposite choices, are both right?

Read the rest in The American Prospect

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