December 7, 2007

Iowa, NH Voters Heavily Courted, Dems Have Edge in Personal Contact

Campaign 'Robo-Calls' Pervasive

Summary of Findings

Voters in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire are being inundated with mail, phone calls and other contacts from the presidential campaigns. In particular, overwhelming majorities of likely voters in both states have received pre-recorded calls, or “robo-calls,” about the campaign. However, far more Democratic voters than Republican voters in these states say they have been personally contacted by one of the campaigns.

Nearly two-thirds of likely voters in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses (65%) say they have been called by a representative of one of the campaigns. By comparison, 46% of likely Republican voters in Iowa say they have received a personal phone call from one of the campaigns.

In addition, a third of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa (33%) say they have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign. Just 8% of the state’s likely Republican caucus-goers say they have gotten a home visit from a campaign representative.

The partisan differences in campaign activity are somewhat less pronounced in New Hampshire. Still, twice as many likely Democratic primary voters than likely Republican voters in New Hampshire say they have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign (30% vs. 15%).

Overwhelming numbers of both Democratic and Republican voters in the early primary states say they been contacted by the presidential campaigns in less personal ways — traditional mail about one or more of the candidates, or pre-recorded phone calls about the campaign. Roughly a third of likely voters in each party in Iowa (34% Republican, 33% Democrat), and comparable numbers of voters in New Hampshire, also say they have been emailed by one or more of the candidates.

Notably, eight-in-ten likely voters in Iowa say they have received pre-recorded calls, or ‘robo-calls,’ from the campaigns. More than a third of all likely voters in Iowa (35%) say they usually listen to these pre-recorded calls, while 44% say they usually hang up. By contrast, many more likely voters in New Hampshire say they hang up on campaign robo-calls rather than stay on the line.

Voters who hang up on pre-recorded calls from the campaigns mostly view these calls as a minor annoyance, rather than something that makes them angry. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, roughly four-in-ten likely voters consider robo-calls a minor annoyance while far smaller percentages say the calls actually make them angry (5% in Iowa, 9% in New Hampshire).

Greater numbers of likely voters in both states say they usually listen to a personal campaign call than to a pre-recorded call. In Iowa, 50% of likely voters say they usually listen to a call from a person, compared with 35% who say they usually listen to a robo-call. In New Hampshire, about twice as many voters say they typically listen to a live, rather than recorded, campaign call (39% vs. 19%).

The primary state survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Associated Press, was conducted Nov. 7-25 among 724 voters likely to vote in Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses; 1,040 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Jan. 8 primary; and 841 likely voters in South Carolina’s Republican (Jan. 19) or Democratic primary (Jan. 26). In addition, a separate national survey was conducted among 915 voters who say they are likely to vote in a primary or caucus in their state.

As expected, most of the campaign activity has been focused on the earliest primary states — Iowa and New Hampshire. Compared with likely voters in those states, far smaller percentages of likely voters in South Carolina have received campaign mail or pre-recorded phone calls. In addition, just 19% of likely voters in South Carolina say they have received a personal call about the campaign; majorities of likely voters in both Iowa (58%) and New Hampshire (52%) say they have gotten such calls.

Most voters in the early primary states say they have found news coverage of the campaign and the presidential debates helpful in their decisions about whom to vote for. But early state voters take a less positive view of the candidates’ commercials; only about one-in-ten likely voters in the three early states have found the candidates commercials very helpful, roughly a third of the proportions saying they find campaign news and the debates very helpful.

Voters in New Hampshire express a somewhat more negative view of campaign commercials than do voters in Iowa and South Carolina. A narrow majority of likely voters in New Hampshire (51%) say the candidates’ commercials have been not too or not at all helpful, compared with 43% of likely voters in Iowa and 41% in South Carolina.

Politically Engaged Iowans

Despite the intense political battles that candidates in both parties are waging in Iowa, there is no evidence that voters in that state are experiencing campaign fatigue. About seven-in-ten likely voters in Iowa say they find the campaign interesting, compared with 57% of likely voters in New Hampshire, 48% in South Carolina and 45% nationally.

In all three states, and among voters nationally, more Democrats than Republicans say they find the campaign interesting. In Iowa, 77% of likely participants in the Democratic caucus say the campaign is interesting, compared with 60% of those likely to attend a Republican caucus, and Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to describe the campaign so far as “dull” (37% vs. 19%).

Voters in the early primary states also are tracking campaign news at higher rates than voters elsewhere. Four-in-ten likely voters in Iowa, and about as many in New Hampshire, say they are paying very close attention to news about the campaign. That compares with 31% of likely voters in South Carolina, and just 24% among voters nationally. There are no significant partisan differences in attentiveness to campaign news.

However, nearly half of Iowa Democratic voters (45%) say they have attended a campaign event. That compares with 28% of likely GOP voters in Iowa. Far smaller percentages of Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire (28% of Democrats, 20% of Republicans) say they have attended a campaign event.

Sizable minorities of likely Democratic and Republican voters in Iowa also say they have contributed money to any of the presidential candidates (18% of Democrats, 14% of Republicans). Slightly smaller numbers of likely voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina say they have donated money to the candidates. Nationally, about one-in-ten likely Republican (11%) and Democratic voters (9%) say they have given money to any of the candidates.

The Campaign Online

Aside from receiving email from the campaigns, voters are using the internet to watch video clips about candidates, visit candidates’ websites, and access social networks such as Facebook and MySpace to get information about candidates or to sign up as a “friend.”

Nationally, roughly three-in-ten (28%) of all likely primary voters say they have watched online video clips about the candidates or the election. Comparable percentages in Iowa and New Hampshire also report watching political video clips, though somewhat fewer likely voters in South Carolina have done so. In addition, 30% of likely voters in Iowa, and 29% in New Hampshire, say they have visited candidate websites; by comparison, fewer voters in South Carolina (16%), and nationally (17%), have accessed candidate websites.

This is the first presidential campaign since the rise of social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace. Small proportions of the likely voters in the three states say they have visited one to these sites to learn about candidates or to sign up as a friend. Nationally, 7% of likely primary voters say they have visited one of these sites to get information on the candidates or to sign up as a friend.

There is no significant partisan gap with respect to campaign activities online. Despite describing the campaign as more “dull,” in both the primary states and nationwide Republicans are about as likely as Democrats to have viewed videos, visited candidate websites or visited social networking sites related to the campaigns.

However, there is a substantial age gap in online political activity, particularly when it comes to visiting social network sites to learn more about the campaign. Nationally, 17% of likely voters ages 18 to 34 say they have visited a social network site to learn about the campaign or sign up as a friend; no more than one-in-20 older voters go on these sites to engage in political activity. In addition, younger voters ages 18-34 are more likely than older voters to watch online video clips about the campaign.

More Democrats Attending Events

Likely Democratic primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are considerably more likely to have attended a campaign event this year than at a comparable point four years ago. In late 2003, 34% of likely participants in the Iowa Democratic caucuses had attended a campaign event, compared with 45% this year. And among likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, the percent attending an event has risen from 18% to 28%. Trends are not available for Republicans because there was no GOP nomination contest in 2004.

The internet, too, is playing a greater role this year than at a comparable point in the 2004 campaign. In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the share of Democratic voters who have visited any of the candidate’s websites is up. And in all three states as well as nationwide more Democratic voters are receiving campaign-related email.

Campaign Calls: A Closer Look

While virtually all Iowa and New Hampshire voters have received phone calls about the campaign or the candidates this year, for many Republicans these calls have been only in the impersonal form of a pre-recorded call.

Among likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, 83% have received either a personal call or a robo-call; a relatively large minority (37%) has only gotten pre-recorded campaign calls, while 43% have received both types of calls. While the overall outreach to likely Democratic caucus-goers has been about the same (86% have received one or more calls), just 21% of Democratic voters have only received robo-calls, while 61% have received both kinds of calls. The pattern is similar in New Hampshire, where more than three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans have received one or more calls, but a greater share of Republicans (32%) than Democrats (23%) have received only automated calls.

In Iowa, telephone contacts were quite widespread already in 2003, but there is a notable increase in the rate of phone calls in New Hampshire. In late 2003 just 55% of likely Democratic voters had been called on the phone by a campaign (the 2003 survey did not distinguish between pre-recorded and live calls). Today, 79% of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire have received either personal or pre-recorded calls. While less widespread, the upward trend in calling is apparent in South Carolina as well.

More Polling in Early States, Too

Just 7% of all likely voters nationwide say they have participated in other polls about the presidential campaign this year. However, substantial minorities of likely voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire report that they participated in other campaign surveys this year.

About three-in-ten likely caucus-goers in Iowa (32%), and nearly as many likely primary voters in New Hampshire (28%), say they have been polled about the campaign this year (not including this survey). At this stage, political polling has been less intensive in South Carolina; just 8% of the likely voters in that state say they participated in other polls.