I no longer have a landline. In fact, I haven’t for years, and that means I am part of a growing segment of the US population, and one with interesting political impact. It turns out that cell-only Americans are more likely to be, according to John Harwood’s inquiry in today’s NY Times,
disproportionately urban, African-American, on either the high or low end of the economic ladder, and Democratic.
And, as this ‘telographic’ group grows (yes, I said telographic), most of the conventional polls are under-representing them, as the NY Times piece shows:
Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster, and Peter Hart, his Democratic counterpart, who conduct the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, proved the point in their latest poll, conducted July 18-22, when they increased the proportion of respondents who rely exclusively on cellphones to 30 percent from 25 percent. To home in on them, the pollsters ended calls answered on cellphones if the respondents said they also had land lines.
Their findings affirmed arguments that “cell only” Americans have significantly different, and more Democratic, political views than those with land lines. Over all, the poll showedMr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by 49 percent to 43 percent — providing a confidence-boosting talking point for Democrats and provoking sharp criticism from Republicans.
Scott Rasmussen, who owns an independent polling firm, approaches the “cell only” problem differently, as he must by law. His Rasmussen Reports conducts surveys through automated dialing, which under Federal Communications Commission rules is permitted for land lines but not cellphones.
So in Mr. Rasmussen’s polls, online interviews account for 15 percent to 20 percent of each survey, which he figures helps him reach the same kinds of voters, especially younger ones, in the “cell only” category. The result he reported the morning of July 25, a few hours after the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was released, was strikingly different: Mr. Romney had 47 percent, and Mr. Obama 44 percent.
So, with around 1/3 of the population without landlines, I bet that there is a skew in the polls. On the other hand, it’s known that older folks — with land lines — are more likely to actually vote in elections. Still, we have to take these polls with a large grain of salt, obviously.