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Does Phonebanking Work? We Answer The Most Burning Question

author-shiksha-sharma
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Published: Feb 20, 2024

Does phonebanking work? That’s an interesting Reddit question to come across. And I thought, “Who better than us to have a take on it?”

After all, CallHub has worked with 4000+ campaigns across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom and provided them with phone banking tools.

So, let’s dive right into it!

Does phonebanking work?

As an organization selling phonebanking tools, we vehemently say yes to this question. After all, phonebanking is the second most effective way to reach your voters and run voter identification campaigns and GOTV programs.

But at the same time, statistics also show that voter turnout through phonebanking (3.8%) is less effective than it is with door-knocking campaigns (9%).

The answer is more complex than that.  We need to consider if we’re asking the right questions. While advocates of phonebanking would agree that phonebanking is an effective outreach tool, there are still more who cast their doubts

However, there is a way to navigate this maze and uncover does phonebanking work.

Let’s walk together and ask different questions, like the ones below.

What are the contact rates in phonebanking campaigns?

Phonebanking campaigns can reach 110 people per hour compared to 15-20 people on door-knocking campaigns. 

That is, on average, five times more people reached – perfect for running voter identification and list cleaning campaigns where campaigners must go through hundreds of thousands of contacts on the state files.

If you look at costs per hour, a phonebanking campaign would cost you $33 on average compared to $36 going door-to-door canvassing. And the pennies add up. If you compare them with door-knocking costs, every 11th contact reached through phone banking is free!

This is not to say door-to-door canvassing is an ineffective outreach tactic. Voter persuasion campaigns yield better results through face-to-face conversations. However, there are some areas – such as reaching exhaustingly long lists where phonebanking can do wonders.

Cellphones vs. landlines: Does the type of numbers matter for phonebanking?

TCPA regulations prohibit political campaigns from reaching mobile phone numbers through autodialers without prior consent from the receiver. You are legally allowed to only call landline numbers without prior opt-in.

With 70% of people owning a mobile phone and only 30% of the US population using landlines, these regulations pose a problem for phonebanking. New York Times reports that nearly three-quarters of political calls go to cellphones these days, including almost every call to young people. 

Landline phones are easy to reach because there aren’t many restrictions to contact them, but that’s not the same for mobile phones. This leaves campaigns with two options:

  1. Manually dial each phone number to receive consent – letting you reach only 20 calls per hour. 
  2. Earlier, to adhere to TCPA regulations,  TCPA-compliant dialers were used for initial calling campaigns to fast-track the process. TCPA-compliant dialers run calling campaigns at the same speed as autodialers but within the playbook of TCPA and FCC regulations by using human intervention to place calls. A manual dialer on a caffeine rush, if you like.

However, new regulations and changes in the definition of an autodialer have made it easy for campaigns to use autodialer technology to to reach upto 110 contacts an hour quickly.

Once campaigns receive consent, call rates for mobile phones can be at par with landlines.

A second problem with the increased mobile phone usage is that people can see a caller ID and flag it as spam. Once they do that, other voters receiving your call will see your caller ID marked as “Spam likely,” – and without you realizing why, your call pickup rates will begin falling drastically.

Fortunately, tools like the Spam Label Shield can overcome these difficulties. Once your caller ID is marked as spam, Spam Label Shield will immediately identify it and replace it with a new number. This way, your campaigns can continue without a drop in pickup rates.

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How Spam Label Shield functions.

Does phone banking work if you have more cell phones to call rather than landline numbers? Yes, as long as you know the right technology to use and eventually receive opted-in consent.

Blue vs. Red: Who is more likely to do phonebanking?

Between the Democrats and the Republicans, which faction is most likely to phonebank? 

Research has shown that over 1.1 million robocalls were placed by political parties in December 2023 alone!

While the same study showcases that Republicans have sent out the highest robocalls, the frequency of phonebanking depends on which states each party is trying to sway. For example, Kentucky has historically been a red state, and we noticed Democrats sent out 78,328 calls to them compared to 8,705 by Republicans.

Phonebanks are undoubtedly widely used across parties – so it is safe to say that significant campaigns still say yes when asked, “Does phonebanking work?”

Do more political calls mean more phonebanking success?

We want to say yes, but how many calls are too many?

If you ask campaigners – there will never be too many calls.

On the flip side, if you ask voters, here’s what you may hear:

does-phonebanking-work-robocall-spam

Source: Twitter

does-phonebanking-work-robocall-annoyed

Source: Twitter

The American voters are angry and tired of the constant political calls flooding their phones. But does this make phonebanking an ineffective outreach method?

The answer lies in strategy. Campaigners must ask themselves how many touchpoints are ideal and plan their campaign accordingly. A good voter persuasion strategy paired with the right number of calls- you achieve phonebanking success.

Does phonebanking work in improving voter turnout?

According to Contra Gerber and Green, in their study spanning six states, phone calls improve voter turnout by 3.8%.

They further state that every increase in votes through phonebanking costs $26, which is cost-competitive to door-knocking campaigns. 

However, they also specify that phone calls would lead to no effective results if–

  1. The quality of phone calls could have been better.
  2. The calls are not personalized. The personal effect of in-person conversations is what makes door-to-door canvassing the most effective voter turnout strategy. They will not produce results if phone calls do not adhere to it.

While not all agree with these findings, this question is best answered by individual campaigns and their personalized phonebanking strategies. CallHub on our end can help you with 10 top tips to win at political phone banking to get you on the path to winning.

Does phonebanking work for different types of campaigns?

Phonebanking campaigns occur at multiple stages of the election cycle, such as:

  1. Voter identification
  2. Voter persuasion 
  3. GOTV 
  4. Volunteer recruitment 
  5. Yard sign placement 

Let’s take a deep dive into how phonebanking works in each of these stages.

Voter identification

A good phonebanking campaign and tools can boost the voter identification process. Through phone surveys and targeted conversations with voters, campaigns can find out a voter’s:

  • Political affiliation
  • Voting plan
  • Support for specific candidates and causes
  • Voting history
  • Demographic details

It is essential to keep in mind that pre-election, campaigns receive lists from State offices, and these lists are generally outdated. With 2/3rds of the American population eligible for voting, one can only imagine what list cleaning for Presidential campaigns would look like. 

Phonebanking tools such as autodialers help speed up the process by assisting campaigns to dial thousands of calls per hour. These tools also provide survey options, tags, and call dispositions to make the process more seamless.

Voter persuasion

A 300% increase in voter turnout was unheard of – except when the Democrats Abroad achieved it through their phonebanking campaign.

If you’re still wondering, “Does phonebanking work?”, their inspiring story of voter persuasion is one to look out for.

does-phonebanking-work-democrats-abroad-example

The Democrats Abroad team is at work.

Democrats Abroad reaches American citizens living overseas and army personnel and encourages them to participate in the democratic process at home. Democrats abroad ran distributed campaigns worldwide to reach their citizens at the grassroots level.

Distributed campaigns are smaller campaigns spread across locations under the umbrella of the organization’s headquarters.

Their efforts led to a 300% increase in voter turnout, inching the Democrats closer to victory.

In their own words:

“When we added CallHub to our voter outreach tool set in 2016, we knew that it would impact our outreach to our members, helping coordinate our efforts worldwide and ensure we were all using the same messaging. We didn’t realize how much it helped recruit and energize volunteers. ”

Julia Bryan, Global Chair of Democrats Abroad

Undoubtedly, a well-strategized phonebanking campaign leads to positive voter persuasion outcomes.

GOTV – Get Out The Vote

In the weeks leading up to the elections, there are only so many doors volunteers can knock on compared to the number of phones they can call.

Get Out The Vote campaigns are incredibly effective through phonebanking. 

A large-scale Cambridge study identified that three additional calls to get out the vote led to an increase of 7 additional votes per thousand subjects. But take that with a pinch of salt since constant phone calls to voters could also decrease the number of votes. 

Volunteer recruitment

There are more than 10,000 campaign volunteers across the United States. 

That’s a lot of people willing to put in their time and effort into building a great nation. They are not only putting in unpaid hours but also become your local advocates who would spread the good word about your campaign with their friends and family.

But how do campaigns find these volunteers?

Phonebanking is one of the most effective ways to reach volunteers. There are two ways in which campaigns go about this:

  1. Run phonebanking campaigns early to reach supporters or touch base with volunteers from the previous election cycle.
  2. During voter identification, ask enthusiastic and supportive voters to join your campaigns.

Yard sign placement

Yard signs lead to an increase in voter turnout by 1-2%. Yes, not earth-shattering, but it is a great way to build familiarity with a candidate, especially in elections where little information is available.

However, getting people to agree to place your yard signs in their freshly mowed, expensive lawns – that’s a challenging task.

Does phonebanking work for yard sign placements?

The answer is- yes.

Like volunteer recruitment, campaigns can target and persuade enthusiastic supporters and voters to place yard signs. Those passionate about your candidate and their causes are sure to sign up for an opportunity to display their signage.

Ready to begin phonebanking?

Phonebanking is one of the most influential political campaign strategies. If you’ve found the answer to the question, “Does phonebanking work?” we have the right tools to help you begin your campaign.

Learn more about CallHub’s phonebanking software and get free credits on signing up!

Featured Image Source: Anna Shvets

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