A new survey claimed nearly two-thirds of registered voters (64 percent) received recorded telephone messages in the final stages of the 2006 midterm election.
These robo-calls were the second most popular way for campaigns and political activists to reach voters, trailing only direct mail as a key tool of political communication, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project November 2006 Election Survey.
The project is a Washington-based non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center that researches the social impact of the Internet.
About 71 percent of registered voters received direct mail campaign solicitations, while 24 percent received phone calls from real human beings urging their vote for a particular candidate, per the survey.
In addition, 18 percent were visited at their homes, and 14 percent received e-mail solicitations.
People with clear partisan leanings, both Republicans and Democrats, were more likely to be solicited through any contact channel, compared with those who say they are independents, according to the survey.
However, conservative Republicans were more likely to have received phone calls of any kind (live or recorded) than were liberal Democrats and moderates in both parties.
The project said this election was the first time that the post-election survey has asked about phone contacts with voters. So there are no data from previous years that allow for comparisons that might show how much the number of robo-call recipients had grown from previous elections.
Even though this was a midterm election, there were increases in some of the other kinds of voter contacts compared with what happened in the 2004 presidential campaign.
For example, 49 percent of American adults received direct mail contacts from candidates in 2004, compared with 61 percent this year. And political activists visited 10 percent of American adults in their homes in 2004, compared with 16 percent this year.
In contrast, the number of Americans getting e-mail political solicitations dropped slightly from 15 percent in 2004 to 12 percent in 2006.
This trend toward higher levels of political communication with the public probably reflects the fact that more congressional and gubernatorial races were contested this year than in 2004. It might also result from the increasing sophistication of campaigns in identifying voters they want to get to the polls on Election Day, the project said.
Indeed, campaigns and activists were more likely to direct communications to those who are traditionally more likely to vote, the project said.
For instance, Americans who have college degrees were more likely to get all types of political communication than were those who have high-school diplomas. Those living in households with incomes above $75,000 were more likely than those in households earning less than $30,000 to receive most forms of communication.
Also, middle-aged and older Americans were more likely than those under age 30 to be the target of all forms of communication, except e-mail messages.