The biggest challenge facing campaigns that are phoning voters today is that fewer and fewer people are willing to answer the phone, especially when they do not recognize the name or number that is calling them.
When the calling system is detecting answering machines, the system itself listens to the first couple of seconds of the call before passing the call to a phoner. By now, most people hear complete silence (the system listening), followed by background noise (the call has been passed to a phoner) and realize that this is a call coming from some kind of call center. At that point, many people just hang up.
Without answering machine detection, as soon as the system detects that a call was answered, the system passes the call to a phoner. The silent pause at the beginning does not happen, and for the person you are calling, the call feels like a normal phone call.
We have analyzed the results of thousands of campaign calls, those using answering machine detection and those without it. The results are clear. Campaigns that do NOT use answering machine detection are able to contact a significantly higher percentage of the list.
One good option is to start with answering machine detection OFF, for the first part of working your list, and then turn it ON after you have made at least one full pass through the list. This can help you reach more people, without requiring that your phoners handle all answering machines, all the time.