Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Future of polls questionable

Here's an interesting article about the challenges cell phones present to pollsters.
About 13 percent of all households in the country have "cut the telephone cord" in favor of cell phones, according to federal figures released last month. That puts this group out of reach of traditional surveys that rely heavily on calls to standard landline phones.

To remedy the situation, surveyors are trying to reach this demographic segment by turning to cell phone surveys and online polls, and reworking the survey parameters that have served them for years. There is even talk of returning to more traditional methods like mailing questionnaires and visiting respondents door to door.
Ironically, we live in a political age where the most minute variations in polls are endlessly discussed both on the internet tubes and on the cable television programs, yet the reliability of the results has never been more in doubt. Folks really need to factor this in when considering the opinions of pundits that mention polling.

NPI has always viewed polls skeptically, if not suspiciously. They might be useful to discover broad trends - like judging how unpopular a president is at the end of a dismal second term, but I think a lot of people don't really care for pollsters and will do what they can to avoid them. It's hard to imagine how ringing people's cell phones is going to do anything but tick people off even more.

The one possible use I've found for answering political questions on the phone is when I suspect it's a conservative or Republican voter ID call. Then I skew my answer so that I get their robo-calls, and if they're dumb enough to leave them on my message machine, then I have a recording of it.

Fun stuff, but then I'm easily entertained.

POSTSCRIPT, from Andrew: The article notes, interestingly, that cell phone only users tend to be younger, progressive, and more technologically savvy. Unless pollsters can identify a non intrusive method for reaching this demographic, the future of polling (at least by phone) will be in serious doubt. Polling that doesn't reflect the attitudes of young people will lead to false impressions, bad information, and inaccurate traditional media reports.

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