Robocalls A Necessary Annoyance During Election Season

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

There's almost no hiding from political robocalls.

They yank you from the dinner table and even leave voicemails on your cell phone.

"Immediately, I hang up," 22-year-old Jasmine Doss said. "I hate them. I hate them a lot."

But experts say robocalls work, or they wouldn't still be around.

"Enough people, it may be a very small percentage, listen to the calls, and maybe act on them, or we wouldn't still have them," Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics said. "And they can ultimately spell the difference between victory and defeat."

In other words, it's worth it to annoy people if just a few are reached successfully. Part of the reason it's so easy to track people down is because robocalls aren't covered under the Do Not Call Registry law.

"They're cheap, they're easy to do, there's companies that you can outsource it to," campaign consultant John Truscott said. "So, if for a candidate for example, all they have to do is call a phone number, record the message, hit send, and it's done. You hope that they hear a name, hear three or four seconds of the message before they hit delete."

There is a website that can help you avoid the calls and deter politicians. It's called stoppoliticalcalls.org, and you just put in your information, and it's sent to your local politicians and the campaigns. They'll see the number and no name, and then they're asked not to call. But there's no guarantee they won't contact people, especially this close to election day.

"It's going to get worse. You ain't seen nothing yet," Ballenger said. "This has been a benign period of neglect by the candidates by comparison to what we're going to get the next two weeks."

From the ballot proposals to local races, as the last campaign dollars roll in, experts say personal messages from the candidates are most effective.

"You can bet you'll probably hear from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the next two weeks," Truscott said.

They'll probably keep it brief though. Truscott said anything longer than 25 seconds gets people too annoyed.

"As long as it's nothing long winded," Lansing resident Candace Embry said. "If it's not a yes or no or something I can just hang up, there can be an issue."

Registered voters and people with a history of voting are most likely to receive robocalls.

Experts said robocalls might be more prevalent this year than ever before.


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