Deep canvassing

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Deep canvassing is a structured interview that uses long empathic conversations with the intention of shifting participant's beliefs. Though deep canvassing emerged from traditional political canvassing, deep canvassing has been shown to be an effective way to change political beliefs. Deep canvassing has been used by researchers and activists for decades to garner support for political and/or social ideologies. Deep canvassing has been used for years to gain traction for issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, animal rights, and racial justice.[1]


The idea originated in 2012, at the Los Angeles LGBT Center when staffers decided to talk to people who voted against same sex marriage to understand them better.[2][1] After the tactic was used in a pro-marriage-equality campaign in Minnesota, Steve Deline, Ella Barrett, and David Fleischer enlisted professors David Broockman and Josh Kalla to study the efficacy of the tactic.[2]

Deep canvassing was used by People's Action in the 2020 United States presidential election because of its efficiency in persuasion, democracy, and ethics.[1] Prior to the election, deep canvassing was promoted as an inclusive, value-based, communication strategy that works as a strong means of political persuasion[3]—this is because of its ability to extend a path into advocation for change through like-minded social groups, its ability to position voters as a central facet of community organizing, and its effectiveness.[2][4]


In 2014, a paper by Michael J. LaCour, When contact changes minds, was released showing that longer and 'deeper' conversation can change minds[5] but was retracted the following year for having falsified data.[5][6]

Kalla and Broockman's study, published in 2016, found that ten minute conversations did have an impact on residents’ views of transgender issues.[7]

In 2017, Kalla and Broockman published another study that found brief door-to-door canvassing, had nearly zero effect on voting choices.[8][9] Of their six studies, Kalla and Brookman have found that deep canvassing does have measurable effects.[2]

Deep canvassing has been shown to be effective in person and over the phone.[10][11]

In 2017, Changing the Conversation Together was launched as an organization of concerned citizens building a national corps of deep canvassers. This volunteer based and professionally-led organization helped flip Staten Island in 2018[12] and Pennsylvania in 2020.[13][14]


The process of deep canvassing can be understood like a layer cake. It typically begins by building rapport with participants, then, the canvasser tells a story of significance to the topic at hand, and lastly the participant's experiences are explored.[15]

Brennan and Jackson studied the dialogical process of deep canvassing. They worked with Showing Up for Racial Justice New York City (SUFRJNYC) and studied the organization's facilitation of a deep canvassing conversation about reparations for Black Americans.[4] The canvassing conversation was semi-structured and followed the initial script given to the canvassers. Participants were first asked to rate their initial attitudes about reparations on a numerical scale of 1-10.[4] The conversations with participants included asking about their life experiences and that informed their current beliefs The canvassers were encouraged to actively listen to the participants, tell personal stories, and avoid using facts in their conversations.[4]

There was also found to be four process themes of deep canvassing when performing data analysis of canvassing conversations; these themes were Interpersonal agreement, Intervoice dynamics, Authoring the self and the other, and Personal experience.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Issenburg, Sasha (October 13, 2014). "Changing Minds, One Knock at a Time". Bloomburg Businessweek. 1: 2. ISSN 0007-7135 – via Business Source Complete.
  2. ^ a b c d Kroll, Andy (2020-07-15). "Can Millions of Deep Conversations With Total Strangers Beat Trump -- and Heal America?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  3. ^ Demetrious, Kristin (2022). "Deep canvassing: Persuasion, ethics, democracy and activist public relations". Public Relations Inquiry. 11 (3): 361–377. doi:10.1177/2046147X211033838. S2CID 238801205 – via SagePUB.
  4. ^ a b c d e Brennan, William; Jackson, Margo A. (Feb 2022). "A Qualitative Examination of Dialogical Elements in Anti-Racist Deep Canvassing Conversations". The Counseling Psychologist. Sage Publications. 50 (2): 35. doi:10.1177/00110000211055408. ISSN 1552-3861. S2CID 245622614 – via APA PsycInfo.
  5. ^ a b LaCour, Michael J.; Green, Donald P. (2014-12-12). "When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality". Science. 346 (6215): 1366–1369. Bibcode:2014Sci...346.1366L. doi:10.1126/science.1256151. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 25504721. S2CID 6322609.
  6. ^ Resnick, Brian (2016-04-07). "These scientists can prove it's possible to reduce prejudice". Vox. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  7. ^ Broockman, David; Kalla, Joshua (2016-04-08). "Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing". Science. 352 (6282): 220–224. Bibcode:2016Sci...352..220B. doi:10.1126/science.aad9713. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 27124458.
  8. ^ Kalla, Joshua; Broockman, David E. (2017-09-25). "The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments". Rochester, NY. SSRN 3042867.
  9. ^ Matthews, Dylan (2017-09-28). "A massive new study reviews the evidence on whether campaigning works. The answer's bleak". Vox. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  10. ^ Resnick, Brian (2020-01-29). "How to talk someone out of bigotry". Vox. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  11. ^ Kalla, Joshua L.; Broockman, David E. (May 2020). "Reducing Exclusionary Attitudes through Interpersonal Conversation: Evidence from Three Field Experiments". American Political Science Review. 114 (2): 410–425. doi:10.1017/S0003055419000923. ISSN 0003-0554. S2CID 213591421.
  12. ^ "NowThisNews".
  13. ^ Massing, Michael (2020-02-04). "Opinion | To Sway Swing Voters, Try Empathy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  14. ^ "The American Prospect Ideas, Politics & Power". NowThis News. 24 February 2020. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  15. ^ Brock-Petroshius, Kristen (March 2022). "Organizing Through Stories: The Role of Emotions in Increasing Support for Decarceration". Journal of Community Practice. 30 (1): 84–104. doi:10.1080/10705422.2022.2033376. ISSN 1070-5422. S2CID 246520541 – via SociINDEX.