Tuesday, April 15, 2008


In states that had already had a primary or caucus, 44% of respondents to a survey said they had received a robo-call from a candidate.

Robo-Candidate. Sounds like a bad movie.

And people listen to these things, at least some of them do. In Iowa, of those who received such calls, over one-third said they listened to the message. Only 19% of New Hampshire respondents said they listened. Granite ears.

As people flee news for entertainment, as the circulation of newspapers and television news dwindles, there are only a couple of ways to reach those trying to tune out of the political process. One is political advertising. Robo-calls are another. It'd be interesting to know if people learn from such calls and, if so, what they learn?

Other than to change their number.

A lot of states are looking to ban robo-calls, including my own Georgia. I'm not sure that'll happen, or even if it's a good idea, but I'm like everyone else in finding the things an annoyance. My congressman won't leave me alone, even after being elected. I got robo-called the other day with earth-shattering useless info as he sucks up long before it's time to run again.

Maybe we need a robo-callback, complete with foghorn.

But on what people know, I suspect these calls provide very little in terms of knowledge. People are awfully distracted when they pick up the phone, and a robo-call probably puts them into a mode of even less attention. There may even be a backlash effect (worth studying!!). But as these increase, I hope someone takes them on from a research perspective.


Shaun said...


As I testified at the US Senate 2.27 in the Rules and Administration Committee, robocalls are not effective.

But, don't take my word for it.

Drs. Green and Gerber of Yale published one of the only statistically relevant study on robocalls and they found that they are not effective.

Link to book:

Summary of book: http://www.washblog.com/story/2006/1/9/112813/5311


Shaun Dakin
CEO and Founder
The National Political Do Not Contact Registry

Hollander said...

Thanks for the visit and the links. I looked at the washblog summary of the book, now I'll have to read the book itself, though the numbers cited in your blog make perfect sense.

I can see robo-calls not affecting turnout. Whether they improve knowledge ... I doubt that as well. Seems like money wasted to me, plus they may even increase ill will toward the candidate who uses them.