As Congress considers a proposal to put restrictions on pre-recorded campaign calls, or “robo-calls,” the frequency of such calls is increasing. Overall, 39% of voters say they have received a pre-recorded call about the campaign, up from 25% in November.
In states that have already held a primary or caucus, fully 44% of voters have received robo-calls. In states, that have not yet held their election or caucus, just 16% of voters have gotten recorded calls.
The use of robo-calls appears to be very much a bipartisan campaign practice. Nationally, approximately the same percentages of independents (43%), Republicans (42%) and Democrats (38%), say they received pre-recorded campaign calls, according to the most recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 19-22 among 1,503 adults.1
For political campaigns, robo-calls are an inexpensive way to reach large numbers of voters. In the March survey, slightly more voters said they had received robo-calls than said they received campaign mailings (39% vs. 36%). In addition, more than twice as many voters said they had gotten a campaign call with a pre-recorded message as said they had gotten a personal campaign call (16%).
Campaigns are now more reliant on robo-calls than personal calls, but as might be expected, there is a much higher hang-up rate for these pre-recorded political messages. Amid intense pre-election campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire late last year, 81% of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, and 68% of likely primary voters in New Hampshire said they had received robo-calls. But more than half of those who received such calls — 44% of all likely voters in Iowa, and 46% of likely voters in New Hampshire — said that they usually hang up on such calls.2
By contrast, the overwhelming proportion of Iowa and New Hampshire voters who received personal campaign calls said they usually listened to those calls. In New Hampshire, roughly twice as many likely primary voters listened to personal campaign calls as to robo-calls (39% vs. 19%), even though more New Hampshire voters reported getting robo-calls.
High-Income Dems Opening Wallets
The March survey showed that there are no major differences in the levels of reported campaign contacts by Democratic and Republican voters. However, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to engage in campaign activities — such as attending campaign events and donating money to a candidate.
The partisan gap in self-reported political donations is particularly pronounced among high-income voters, those with household incomes of $100,000 and above. Fully 23% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters say they have made a donation to a presidential candidate, whereas just 6% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters with similar incomes have donated to a candidate.