Of Smears and Robo-Calls

There are many concerned about the potential impact of the current smear “robo-calls” the McCain campaign is rolling out, accusing Obama of everything from terrorism to killing babies.

Personally, I believe that this move is meant mainly to energize the wing-nut crowd who would be then motivated to get up off the couch to actually go vote. This tactic is probably being used because the McCain camp is concerned that some people might not show up to vote because they think that it is futile.

Marc Ambinder has an interesting piece on the subject. He points to studies that question the effectiveness of robo-calling:

“Political scientists and consultants say that taped-voice telephone calls are among the least effective methods of voter persuasion.

Privately, Republican consultants liken that the RNC’s massive robocall effort this week to a ball and string toy — it gives vendors something to do and activists something to think about.

Alan Gerber and Donald Green, Yale profs who study turnout, have written that robocalls¬† “might help you to stretch your resources in ways that allow you to contact the maximum number of people, but don’t expect to move them very much, if at all.”

Generic robocalls — those not targeted at specific constituencies — are worse.

There’s an exception. When the calls reinforce a message that a candidate is carrying, then they’re not always a bad investment. But the national McCain campaign is only weakly invested in anti-Obama message on William Ayers and Obama’s “terrorist” connections.”

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