It’s robo-call season: Duck and cover

Despite many states regulating or looking to pass laws for more control over automated or robo-call computer-generated phone-calling campaigns, the effort seems to be having little impact on the bombardment.

People who live in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have been inundated with unsolicited telephone calls and from the variety of presidential campaigns going on. Amazingly eight in 10 Iowa Republicans and Democrats say they have gotten recorded phone calls about the 2008 contest, according to a poll of three early voting states released today by The Associated Press and the nonpartisan Pew Foundation. It's close to seven in 10 in New Hampshire and four in 10 in South Carolina, where the primaries are slightly later.

According to the study, almost two-thirds of Iowa Democrats and more than half from the party in New Hampshire say they've been called by actual people about the campaigns, compared with nearly half of Republicans in the two states. In South Carolina, it's closer to one-fifth for members of both parties.  

If that's not enough, about one-third of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire say they have been visited at home by campaign workers. The figures are more like one in 10 among Republicans in those states, and very few in South Carolina. As for all those recorded phone calls, more than half the people who got them said they hung up.  People were far more polite with live callers _ reported hang-ups ranged from one to two in 10.

And it’s not just phone calls: Roughly a third of likely voters in each party in Iowa (34% Republican, 33% Democrat), and comparable numbers of voters in New Hampshire, also say they have been emailed by one or more of the candidates.The results are based on random telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7-25 with 264 likely Republican caucus goers and 460 likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa;  446 likely GOP voters and 594 likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, ; and 468 likely GOP voters and 373 likely Democratic voters in South Carolina, Pew said.

Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan are but a few of the states that have or will have laws curbing robo-calls in place this year.  

According to a CQPolitics report the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections is considering whether political dial-a-voter messages ought to abide by the same “do not call” list limits as commercial telemarketers. Lawmakers are concerned that some groups are using the calls to deliberately mislead voters and that the abuse could depress voter turnout. A spokesman for Zoe Lofgren , D-Calif., the subcommittee’s chairwoman, said she may try to add such a provision to a pending bill (HR 1383) seeking stricter limits on the so-called robo-calls, the article stated.  

According to an article on Robo-calling is dirt cheap: 5 to 15 cents per call. It's more efficient than TV ads, because operatives can directly select the households they want to target: independents, married women, Catholics, whatever. And it's incredibly fast. A Democratic firm offers 200,000 calls per hour; a Republican firm offers 3.5 million per day. To speak to that many people, volunteers would need weeks. Through the miracle of parallel processing, a massive order for robo-calls, like an order to sell stock, can be "executed," in industry parlance, during a precise time window. Want to start at 6:49 p.m. and finish by 7:17 p.m.? Done.

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