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Kimball touts auto-call findings


Spencer Kimball, scholar-in-residence in the Communication Studies Department.

Spencer Kimball, scholar-in-residence in the Communication Studies Department, is scheduled to appear on Sirius XM’s Politics of the United States channel (Channel 124) this Monday, October 7, at 7:40 am to discuss his research that found “auto calls” (also known as “robo-calls”) by political campaigns are more effective than previously thought.

Kimball is the lead author of a recently released academic paper that unveils new research showing 75 percent of people listen to more than 19 seconds of a pre-recorded auto call message, which equates to more than 40 words. About 97 percent listen to at least six seconds.

The findings suggest that this amount of exposure—far longer than originally thought—might have some effect on potential voters.

Kimball said he conducted the research with the help of Emerson students.

“The students and I were talking one day about auto calls they had received from former President Bill Clinton endorsing a candidate,” he said, “and we came up with the idea of actually going out and testing whether people listen to these automated messages.”

Kimball examined data from a third-party vendor that consisted of 157 call projects with a total of 389,588 live answered phone calls from the last week of the 2012 presidential election.

Unlike previous studies that used self-reports—meaning it was based on what people said they did—the study in Kimball’s report eliminated this bias by using an electronic monitoring system integrated into all interactive voice recognition (IVR) software. 

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