Robo-calls

The Macon Telegraph has a piece today on automated phone calls, as used by campaigns. The article (“Automated calls hold pluses, minuses for political campaigns”), which asserts that robo-calls are “cheap and effective, but they often annoy voters,” says:

Atlanta Braves starter John Smoltz was on the phone to make a political pitch, one that Lawrence Hammond didn’t appreciate.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Hammond, a 41-year-old accountant who lives near Augusta, “but I don’t care about his political views.”

Smoltz’s call was among the 18 or 19 that filled Hammond’s voicemail during a weekend beach trip last month as the Georgia primary election neared. The recorded messages praising Republican candidates may have hurt more than helped.

“I would probably still vote for the Republican, but it could turn me off to them,” Hammond said. “I wouldn’t want to support them as much.”

“It’s extremely cost effective – way cheaper than a piece of mail, way cheaper than a live phone call,” said Elizabeth J. Welsh, president of Louisville, Ky.-based Executive Communications Inc., which runs political campaigns and hires companies to send automated calls for clients.

The calls are seen as effective, too. Georgia state Sen. Casey Cagle relied on the calls to upset former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Some homes in suburban Atlanta’s predominantly Republican counties received more than two dozen calls from the Cagle campaign alone.

“The automatic calls are pretty heavily used by both sides in almost every major campaign because they’re so incredibly cheap,” said Cagle spokesman Brad Alexander. “The question isn’t whether you can afford to do them, but how many you want to do.”

The article concludes on this down note:

Several states have passed or are considering laws banning the calls. In Montana, politicians face the same limitations as telemarketers and can face a fine of up to $2,500 if they send out the automated calls.

So, what do you think about robo-calls? Annoying, effective, or the perfect balance of both? Being that this is a site for “political junkies,” I can probably guess the answer… 😉

11 comments

  1. blazer says:

    They are incredible irritating to get but I think banning them would be a bad thing simply because I believe in the 1st amendment a little too much. I think a campaign calling your home is a little different than say a telemarketer…

  2. UGAMatthew says:

    I don’t mind them so much; its fun picking them apart and commenting on how we’d do ’em better. Besides, I’ much listen to minute blurb about politics than listen to someone, who I am going to hang-up on, try to get me to change long-distance service.

  3. Chris says:

    CHelf, thank you for being honest.

    Some recipients might find them annoying, some recipients might find them useful. In a free country I’d hope we wouldn’t outlaw something as important as political speech just because a few people find it annoying.

    Use the Do Not Call registry if you must, and allow people who don’t want robo-calls to say they don’t want them.

  4. atlantaman says:

    Basically all non-profit calls are exempt from the do-not-call list. Being a political junkie I guess I don’t see what the big deal is. You only have to hear them for a week or two during election season and it is part of our political process.

    Since the 1st Amendment was written for political free speech I would hope any ban on political robo-calls would be shot down by the Supreme Court. Although McCain-Feingold proved me wrong before.

  5. CHelf says:

    Most people do not target properly. Others don’t hit the ‘decent’ time of day or day of the week for the calls. Nothing worse than sitting at the dinner table getting these calls. Another issue is the fact that more people are using cell phones for home numbers. More affluent people have restricted numbers or calls blocked. There are many factors involved and only a few have found a successful conbination of use of phones for autodialing. Some just prefer the old fashioned human to human. You better have lots of cash, good volunteers, and plenty of time to work with.

  6. CobbGOPer says:

    I agree with Atlantaman, seriously, people shouldn’t get so damned worked up about these calls. They only happen in the few weeks before a major election, and then you don’t hear anything for the next two years. People need to shut up and relax. Honestly, I think the only people who complain are folks who get calls from pols they don’t like or have already decided to vote against, for the sole reason of being able to call that pol ‘annoying’.

    If you don’t like robo-calls, don’t pick up the phone or delete the message from your machine. And shut up, they’ll stop in a week or so.

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