Deep Canvassing on Climate – The Power of Listening to Persuade

On December 1, 2023, the Yale Center for Environmental Communication hosted a conversation on deep canvassing around climate change moderated by Dr. Joshua Kalla, Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and featuring Montana Burgess, Executive Director of Neighbours United and Steve Deline, Co-Founder at The New Conversation Initiative.

Originating from the LGBTQIA+ equality movement, “deep canvassing” is an outreach method that persuades by listening to people’s mixed feelings and thoughts without judgment, giving people a safe conversational space to resolve their internal conflict on an issue. Persuasion can be difficult on polarized issues like climate change. Studies by Josh Kalla and David Broockman found that persuasion effects from deep canvassing lasted up to 9 months–much longer than common campaign outreach methods. Neighbours United thought a similar approach might be useful in engaging their community on climate issues in Trail, a frontline, rural, industrial community in British Columbia, and worked with Steve Deline and team at the New Conversation Initiative on this campaign. Deep canvassing on climate proved successful and in April 2022, the city council voted unanimously to transition to 100% renewable energy across all sectors no later than 2050 and instructed staff to develop a transition plan within one year. Neighbours United is now scaling this approach in Canadian and American communities to cut giveaways for the oil and gas industries and build support for electrification and rural clean energy development.