Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Fun phone facts

The change in the way we all use phones puts pressure on political pollsters.

Fun phone facts

The Washington Post reports a bunch of fun phone facts that it says is putting pressure on political pollsters to accurately reflect the electorate's views.

The basic premise is because we're not using telephone landlines to the extent we once did and are more reliant on cellphones that pollsters need to either greatly increase their cellphone calls or rely on heavy mathematical skewing.

It isn't really news that Americans are changing the way they communicate, but it is dramatic to see to what extent.

The Post offers a chart showing telephone usage from 2003 to 2013. The chart, which you can see here, says that in 2003 more than 40 percent used landlines only, a number that by 2013 dropped to below 10 percent.

Contrast that with data showing cellphone-only or mostly-cellphone use climbed from next to nothing to close to 60 percent during the same period.

Also, and understandably, the demographics show younger people using cellphones only as opposed to just 13 percent of folks 65 and older. And Hispanics, according to the data, rely on cellphones more than any other race.

In addition, The Post piece sites Pew Research Center findings suggesting we're less patient on our phones. Pew says the percentage of those willing to stay on the line and complete a polling survey, which can take 30 minutes or more, dropped from 36 percent in 1997 to just 9 percent in 2012.

All this means pollsters need to make more calls to cellphones to get good samples, and streamline questions to get people to stay with their surveys.

It also might mean more fodder for those who think that polls (accurate or not) drive perception and end up being self-fulfilling prophecies of campaign outcomes.

 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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