Sunday, October 10, 2004

Canvassing in New Hampshire

My wife and I canvassed a rural area of New Hampshire today, and it was a rough experience. This was not my first experience at canvassing, and I expected that I would be received better than I was. I canvassed in January for Clark. Everyone I spoke to was talkative and nice, even if they were clearly not voting for Clark. I preferred canvassing to getting on the phones. Going into this work, I figured it would be even easier now: there are only two campaigns trying to contact people, not ten.

First, I should say that New Hampshire looks nothing like it did in January. Of course, the winter campaign was harsh, and the ground was covered with snow. Right now, the leaves are turning--it is near the height of the season, and the temperature is more temperate. The land was also clear of political signs. In January, every space was packed with signs for the political candidates, especially signs for Howard Dean. There are few signs now: driving north into the Keene area, we count less than thirty for both candidates.

The area that we were assigned was just north of Keene. It was a village nestled in the hills and along a small river. Most of the fields looked marshy. In one spot we saw an outhouse in one of these marshes, something which we could not understand. Most of the houses were either on the state highway that cut through the valley or on steep dirt roads that cut through the hills.

The houses did not have visible numbers–perhaps two inch high numbers that could not be seen from the road 150-250 feet away. Even the mailboxes contained little information. Furthermore, they were so far apart that it was impossible to walk between them–we had to drive from house to house. For three hours we crisscrossed this small town, missing the houses and not really sure of where we were.

The people were not friendly. Were they anti-Kerry? It is hard to say. When I announced myself, people usually reacted by saying that they were uncommitted and that they did not want to talk about politics AT ALL. In essence, I was refused before I could get in a kind word. However, some of those same people gave me an earful of how fed up they were with the political process. And I stood there like a dope, listening to them, hoping for some opening that would allow me to talk about the candidates. They would not let me talk about politics, but they used me as their political psychoanalyst.

What were my results? I don’t know how many houses I assigned, but there were a few I could not find. I received several refusals before I could identify my intention. They could not have known what I was doing because I wore no buttons that affiliated me with one campaign or other. However, my attire might have been an issue: a pastel blue, long sleeve shirt with a grid texture, grey slacks and black loafers--I stood out.

A bunch of people said they were not interested in talking to me after I announced my intentions. Three women were undecided with hostility, and said they would make up their minds nearer to election day. However, I realized in that their hostility for politics was more directed at Bush than Kerry, and I think they will end up voting for Kerry. Still, I had to mark them as a "3" (parlance for an uncommitted voter.) Finally, two women were enthusiastically pro-Kerry--both marked as "1". Technically, no one said they were pro-Bush, but the hostility made knowing difficult.

Considering how isolated these houses were, the residents probably wanted to live in isolation and welcomed no one. But they also live in a state in which politics can be most intense, especially since they have the "first in the nation" primary.

If we had not done this area, probably no one would have. I was given two choices: a town that was far, and this town which was close. I should have been alarmed that such a close town was still available, but we arrived late and I wanted to get to work. Later, someone told me that when they canvassed in the same area earlier in the year, they spoke to two women who were pulled away by their husbands, saying that they did not want anyway filling their wives' heads with ideas.


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Hampshire is odd in that sense - they are practically Libretarians who want to be left alone to not wear their helmets and not pay taxes - but they love the fact that their state means something in the national political picture.

I can just imagine how hard it would be to canvass in a rural area. I think you are right in your assessment though - that their hostility is directed at Bush. Folks in New Hampshire may hate Kerry because he is so well known to them, but in the end they will still vote for him.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger limeywannabe said...

yes, i know. we're from new hampshire. my father is pro-kerry but tends to be rather hostile to political canvassers and to people who call about political stuff. last time he was rude to a political telemarketer, i called him on it and he said that i was right, and he would try to be nicer next time. he just hates being bothered, he says.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Nathanael said...

I hope your father is not someone I have disturbed, either now or in the past.


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