Monday, October 20, 2008

Robocalls

I got home the other day from a trip to the store and saw “000-000-0000 UNKNOWN CALLER” on the Caller ID. There was no message on the answering machine, but I knew immediately what it was: a robocall. I didn’t have to wait very long before the phone rang again and the same number came up on the screen. I picked up the phone, said “Hello,” waited a few seconds, and then heard, “Hello, this is Senator Bob Graham calling on behalf of Raul Martinez….” I hung up.

In the first place, the Martinez campaign needs to do their research. My congressional representative is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Raul Martinez isn’t running against her, so they’re placing a call to someone who can’t even vote for their guy. Second, I have real doubts as to whether or not robocalls actually work. I have yet to be persuaded by one — or even listen to one all the way through — and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

I’m guessing that their usefulness isn’t actually in persuading undecided voters who to vote for — or in the case of some campaigns, who to vote against. I think what they are mainly used for is the notoriety they generate in the media: the McCain campaign is calling people and telling them that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists and is, at this very moment, in your garage trying to boost your Mercedes. That gets the method some attention as well as free advertising for the campaign when Chris Matthews plays one on Hardball. So, in that sense, robocalling works. But I can’t really see the efficacy of them if all most people do is hang up as soon as they realize who — or what — is calling.

Let me know if you’ve gotten any robocalls; who they’re from, and what you do when you get one.