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Robo Call Data and Information - Why Does This Matter?

Welcome to our Robo Call Data and Information Center.   In this section we provide you with the latest information about Robo Calls:  Data, studies, books, and other data sources that can help you learn, quickly, about why this issue is of such importance to all Americans.

Robo Call Studies:

The most up to date and authoritative studies come from the PEW Research Centers.   These studies clearly show that the trend lines are moving in the wrong direction.

  • 2006 Study (Over 60% of all Americans received robo calls in 06 cycle) - Go here to get the study.
  • 2007 November Study (81% of Iowa voters received robo calls) - Go here to get the study.
  • 2008 Study (Robo calls now top type of campaign communications) - Go here to get the study.
  • 2010 Study (2010 Campaign Outreach Communications)  "69% of voters received a robocall" - Go Here to get the study.

Robo Call Effectiveness Studies:

Robo calls generally are not effective.  The only third party and legitimate studies have been performed by Dr. Green and Dr. Gerber at Yale University.   According to Dr. Green robo calls have  "a perfect record of never having worked."  Dr.  David Nickerson has also performed some very interesting research on robo calls.

  • Book:  Get Out The Vote by Green and Gerber.  Go here to learn more about the book.
  • Book review:  Go here to read the Politics Magazine review of the Get Out The Vote book.
  • Research Review by Todd Rogers (Harvard) in which he looks at 6 academic studies of robocall effectiveness and they all prove their ineffectiveness.  Go here to get the abstract.

Robo Call Hearings and Testimony:

There have been two hearings during the 2008 election cycle at the Federal level regarding robo calls.   In December, 2007 the House held hearings and in February 2008 the Senate held hearings.
  • The 2007 House Committee on House Administration Hearings on robo calls.  Go here to get copies of witness testimony.  Witnesses included the following members of Congress:  Foxx, Bean, and Altmire.  In addition there were witnesses that represented the robo calling industry and a citizen.
  • The 2008 US Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Hearings on robo calls.  Go here to get copies of the witness testimony.  Witnesses included:  Shaun Dakin, CEO of StopPoliticalCalls.org; AG Cooper of North Carolina; and James Bopp, a First Amendment expert.
State by State Robo call Legislation:

NOTE: Each state has their own robo call legislation that changes often.  
  • Go here to get a copy of the State of CT 2006 analysis of robo call law state by state.
  • Politics Magazine state by state 2009 political telemarketing guide.  Go here to read more.
  • A robocall vendor has a usefull interactive map here.
Federal Do Not Call Information:

The FTC has a great section of their website for reporters.  Go here to read more.

How many phone numbers are on the Federal Do Not Call list?
  • Go here to read the 2007 testimony by the FTC Before the Subcommittee On Oversight and Investigations of the Committee On Financial Services, United States House of Representatives.
  • Here is the most recent FTC Do Not Call Report from 2011 - "FTC Issues The FY 2011 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book; Nearly 210 Million Phone Numbers on Do Not Call List"

Robocall Studies

Here are some more facts, as reported by Todd Rogers at the Analyst Institute ( www.analystinstitute.org):

A 2005 study failed to show that robocalls generated mobilization results among youth voters. This study was conducted during the 2005 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election. 18,000 young voters were randomly selected to be robocalled with one of two GOTV messages, while the rest of the young voters in the election were left uncontacted. The first groupís message encouraged turnout and informed the voters of their polling location. The second groupís message was a generic turnout encouragement. Neither message was effective at increasing turnout over the uncontacted group (Nickerson, 2005).

Another study in 2001 in Seattle failed to find any mobilizing effect from robocalls when placed from a local election official. The local registrar of voters recorded a message sent to 10,000 voters the day before the November Municipal election reminding citizens to vote. No statistically significant increase in turnout resulted among those who received the robocalls relative to those who did not (Nickerson, 2002).

A 2006 study failed to find that robocalls increased turnout among Latino voters when the calls were placed from a Latino organization. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) conducted the study during the 2006 General Election in five California counties. Robocalls were delivered to 61,422 low propensity Latino voters. No effect on turnout was found among those who were called relative to those who were not called (Michelson, 2007).

A 2005 study failed to find that robocalls had an effect when using the voice of a Latino celebrity. NALEO conducted this study in California, New Mexico, and the city of Houston, TX, during the 2002 General Election. More than 250,000 phone numbers associated with Latino voters received two robocalls each. The calls were recorded in Spanish by a Spanish-language-television celebrity anchorwoman. The researchers found no statistically reliable increase in turnout among those who were assigned to receive the calls relative to those who were assigned to not receive the calls. The cost of the robocall campaign was $23,725 which means that the robocalls in this study resulted in a cost per vote of approximately $275 (Ramirez, 2005).

A similar 2004 study failed to find that robocalls had an effect when using the voice of an African American celebrity to call African American populations. In North Carolina and Missouri during the 2004 Presidential Election, precincts were divided into three groups. The groups were defined by precincts with high voter density and a large percentage of African American voters, precincts with a low voter density and a moderate percentage of African American voters, and precincts with a high voter density and a low percentage of African American voters. Individuals in these groupings were then randomly assigned to receive one of two robocall messages or to be left uncontacted. Both robodials were recorded by Vanessa Williams. The first message emphasized voting rights. The second emphasized the important issues of the election. In none of the groupings or message conditions was a measurable increase in voter turnout detected over the uncontacted control group (Green and Karlan, 2006).

Another study failed to demonstrate an effect from robocalls using political endorsements. This experiment was conducted during the Texas Republican Primary for State Supreme Court Justice. In this study, hundreds of thousands of Republican voters received a robocall message recorded by popular Republican Governor, Rick Perry. The message encouraged Republicans to turnout for the upcoming election, and to vote specifically for the endorsed nominee. Those who received the robocalls were not measurably more likely to vote than those who did not (Green and Gerber, 2008 p. 83).
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