Telemarketing Software Featured Article

Robo-Calling Changing Politics

November 10, 2008
By Tim Gray - Telemarketing Software Web Editor

As one of the longest Presidential campaign’s in history came to an end last week - and with it a close to the ubiquitous campaign posters, e-mails, leaflets and door-to-door canvassing - one lasting campaign method is still being scrutinized and discussed: the robo-call.

While call centers have played a role in politics since the 1940s, it was the technology of automated dialing and message playback in the 1980’s that helped deliver political messages at an astounding rate.

Now, robo-calling has become so prevalent in campaigning that  the a Pew (News - Alert) Research Center study showed nearly two-thirds of American households in Ohio and Florida – considered key battle states in the presidential election - received robo-calls in the final weeks of the 2006 midterm elections.
And these calls aren’t always about deliver only the candidate’s message. During the election campaign, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said a series of robo-calls from John McCain’s camp connecting linking Barack Obama with "domestic terrorist" Bill Ayers helped him decide crossing party lines and endorse Obama.
In fact, robo-calling has become such an integrated part of campaigns, voters in ‘hotpots” received recorded messages from the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Scarlett Johannson, Jay-Z and "Joe Martinez the Plumber.”
The technology in recent years has become so simple to deploy that even regional and local campaigns employ them. The system only requires a computer, software, and a DS3 telephone line. A sophisticated campaign can make as many as 2,500 calls per minute at a relative cheap 5 cents per call.
Like many technologies, robo-calling can also experiences some snafus. In March, 5,000 residents in Ohio received these recorded campaign pitches between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., not exactly the best way to ingratiate politicians with voters.
Of course, the technology can sometimes backfire. In March, more than 5,000 residents of Ohio's Cuyahoga County received robo-calls between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. because of faulty programming.
And it’s not just the professionals chipping in. A rise in the number of “Do-it-Yourself” robo-callers is taking calling into their own hands. During the primaries at one individual sent out recording calls claiming New York Senator Hillary Clinton killed an opponent’s cat.
Although the robo-calls often become ubiquitous, there is regulation controlling some aspects of the technique. The automated calls are regulated by the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires the organization or individual sponsoring the message to provide identification and a telephone number or address.
Many have wondered why political robo-calls are not subject to the 2003 National Do-Not-Call Registry that allows consumers to block unwanted telemarketing calls. This is because the courts have ruled that it is a form of political speech protected under the First Amendment.
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Tim Gray is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Tim�s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray