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5/30: Don’t Cell Out!

Election 2012

5/30: Don’t Cell Out!

It should be the battle cry of all pollsters and poll watchers interested in accuracy when it comes to presidential polling.  The problems of reaching cell phone only respondents are well documented.  But, measurements of the Obama-Romney horse race that rely solely on landline households do so at great peril.

caricature of Lee MiringoffCheck out the results from the recent NBC News/Marist Polls of swing states.  In Florida, Romney is +3% with landline voters, but Obama is +23% with cell phones.  In Virginia, it’s pretty much the same… Romney +1% with landlines, Obama is +18% among cells.  Owing to his wider lead in Ohio, Obama is +4% with landline voters but is also +9% with the cell phone electorate.

Two final comments on this issue of methods:  First, there’s no doubt that Obama’s advantage with cell phones has a lot to do with younger people dominating the cell phone only electorate.  But, the under 30 aged voters made the difference in 2008.  It would be a pollster gamble to undercount them this time.  Second, this discussion has been only about telephone surveys with live interviewers.  Robo-polls which also exclude cell phone households are an entirely different polling battlefield.

The bottom line:  cell phone only households need to be included in all accurate attempts at public opinion measurement.  For campaign 2012, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity.

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Lee M. Miringoff is the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. Follow Lee on Twitter at @LeeMiringoff.



  1. Southern Cell

    April 7, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    That’s the great thing about cell phones and caller ID. I never answer a a call from a number that I am unfamiliar with. If it is someone who is really trying to get in touch, after the 2nd unanswered call, just send a text – it is proven knowledge that everyone reads their text messages.

  2. Tom - houston samsung repair

    August 2, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    I concur with Pamela, but to a certain extent. It depends on the type of number. Unless I’m familiar with an 800 number, I don’t bother answering. However, if it’s a non-800 number, then I may answer. It might be a friend who had their number changed. You’ll never know until you answer.

  3. FrankTrades

    June 5, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    The Democrats don’t want to trust the ones that say O’Bama is losing. It’s a riot how they try to discredit them!

  4. Pingback: Poll Position: Year of the Cell Phone? – Dane101 « Cell Phones

  5. Pingback: Poll Position: Year of the Cell Phone?

  6. Quidam

    May 31, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    I wonder whether there is a bias in people prepared to talk with pollsters?

    What proportion of calls results in a successful poll and are the decliners more likely to be conservative or liberal?

    I’m not sure how you would conduct that poll but the results could be interesting …

  7. Pamela Merritt

    May 31, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    I am one of those “cell phone only” people. Not a youngster, unless you consider 63 “young”. I never answer a “blocked” phone number or one with an unfamiliar area code. How do I become more “pollster” friendly? Is there a way for your callers to be identified?

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