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Pennsylvania Stands Up Volunteers Surpass 2 Million Voter Contacts, Including More than 112,000 "Deep Canvass" Calls

Pennsylvania Stands Up, a progressive grassroots organization with nine local chapters around the state, passed 1 million attempted voter contacts to elect Joe Biden last week in a battleground state that Donald Trump won in 2016 by just 44,292 votes, together with partners at People's Action and Seed the Vote. Over 112,000 of these attempts have employed a research-backed “deep canvassing” methodology, which relies on personal, values-based conversations aimed at engaging voters’ sentiments and beliefs. Pennsylvania Stands Up State PAC has made an additional 1,000,000 calls with their partners at Turn PA Blue to elect 27 endorsed candidates for the Pennsylvania legislature. Taken together, that means Pennsylvania Stands Up and PA Stands Up State PAC volunteers have attempted 2 million voter contacts in the Keystone State.

Alongside traditional calling and texting methods, the locally rooted group aims to sway voters in this key swing state with a strategy that recent research suggests is uniquely effective at changing people’s minds when it comes to political dispositions and prejudices. Deep canvassing has been shown to be 102 times more effective than the average presidential persuasion program to sway voters. On the ground, it’s working: more than 20% of persuadable voters report having their opinions moved during the Pennsylvania Stands Up’s deep canvassing conversations.

"I was drawn to deep canvassing because I wanted to take more action for racial justice in our country and have meaningful conversations with people in my own community who have different backgrounds and views than myself,” said Morgan Tucker, an Bethlehem, PA resident who got involved with Pennsylvania Stands Up through their local Lehigh Valley Chapter. “I remember speaking with a small business owner in Allentown whose business I’ve patronized. She liked Trump's 2017 tax reforms because she saw them as good for her business. When we brought our conversation back to the values and experiences we shared, we could agree that Biden would be a much better champion of working people, people of color, and immigrants than Trump. At the end of our conversation she said she was more likely to vote for Biden than at the beginning of our conversation.”

Deep canvassing relies on honest conversations between canvassers and voters that go beyond the brief, scripted asks of typical phone banking. Conversations typically involve candid exchange and reflection on the connections between personal experiences and political issues. Though this strategy may play a crucial role in this year’s election results, it might also be the key to healing divided communities across the country -- and building common ground in the years ahead.

“We believe in deep canvassing because we believe in building a movement grounded in relationships and shared values,” said Hannah Laurison, director of Pennsylvania Stands Up. “We must defeat Donald Trump and elect progressive champions this November, and we also must bring new people into our movement to sustain our momentum after November. It’s crucial that we genuinely connect with people in our communities around things we can agree on.”

Tucker, who became active with Pennsylvania Stands Up through their local anti-racist activism led by local chapter Lehigh Valley Stands Up this summer, now leads a deep canvassing session every week. As deep canvassing sessions continue up until the election, local leaders hope to win both votes and hearts.

“If we take the time to really listen to people and hear what they have gone through and how they feel, we can demonstrate that we’re in this together, we have more in common than it might seem, and that we are all human beings. That’s why I’m making these calls every week.”

*A summary of study findings may be found here, and the full report here.

For more information about our 2020 voter engagement program, or to interview Hannah Laurison or Morgan Tucker, please contact us here.

Photo: Canvassers review turf as part of Lancaster Stands Up's 2018 program to elect Jess King. (Note that this year, due to the risks of coronavirus, our canvassers are connecting with voters virtually by phone and text.)