How We Got Trump Voters to Change Their Mind – The Atlantic

Sarah Longwell: Why people who hate Trump stick with him

Typically, when volunteers engage in a canvassing campaign, the effort basically amounts to verbal leafleting. They make a one- to two-minute targeted pitch for a candidate or a ballot initiative, and then they leave or hang up the phone.

In a deep canvass, we want to have a real conversation. To get people to open up, we start by asking the basics: How are you doing? How are you holding up in this global pandemic? We respond not with canned answers, but with more questions: Oh, youre watching football? Who is your team? How is your family doing? Were really asking, and we really listen. Eventually, a true back-and-forth begins, one where we exchange stories about our lives and what is at stake for ourselves and for our communities in this election. Usually, by the end, what emerges is some kind of internal conflictwhy the person is frustrated, why she cant decide who to vote for, or why she is skeptical of Biden.

Recently, one of our volunteers, Angela, reached a man by phone while he was at work on a construction site (during the pandemic, weve switched from door-knocking to phone-banking). When Angela asked how he was doing, he initially said he was fine, but when Angela shared how much shes been struggling and how worried shes been about the pandemic, the conversation changed. Angela said that her husbands grandmother had died in a nursing homealong with 50 other peopleand he opened up about his wife coming down with COVID-19 and about the time that she called him at work to say she was struggling to breathe. This led to a conversation about health care and the need for good leadership. At the beginning of the call, he said he had no plans to vote but was ready to cast a ballot when he hung up, and Angela ended the call feeling a depth of connection.

Research has shown time and again that people vote from an emotional place. Its not so much that facts dont matter. Its that facts and talking points do not change minds. And arguing opinions at the start of a conversation about politics causes the interview subject to keep his defensive, partisan walls up and prevents him from connecting with the canvasser.

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. Weve found that when people start to see the dissonance between what they believe and what they actually want, their views changemany of them come around to a more progressive perspective. For example, if a woman says she believes that immigrants are the main problem in our society, but reveals that her top personal concern is health care, then we talk about whether immigrants have anything to do with that worry. When a man says he wants to feel safe, we ask questions about what, in particular, makes him feel unsafe. If he answers COVID-19, then we talk about which candidate might be better suited to handle the pandemic.

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How We Got Trump Voters to Change Their Mind - The Atlantic

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