We will know the real results tomorrow, but why are political polls getting such a bad rap in the last couple of years? It seems like everything comes down to technology and how it is changing our lives. In this case you can blame the change on mobile phones.

Phone Use for Political Polls

In 2008, more than eight in every ten US households had landlines. In 2015, households with landlines were at 50% and dropping. Federal regulations require that mobile phones be called manually, and the screening of calls on mobile phones has dropped the response rate to just 10%. Each mobile phone interview costs about twice as much as a landline call. Frederick Conrad, head of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan, says “There is a non-response bias, because people who respond to pollsters’ calls sometimes do not reflect a representative sample.”


Online Political Polls

Online polls make it easy to collect thousands of responses in a short amount of time and at lower cost. A twelve minute online survey costs about $30,000 while a similar telephone survey would be $70,000. The bad news is that recruiting for online polls is done through websites and with people choosing whether to participate or not this choice can lead to built-in bias in the sample. Some pollsters are experimenting with text message polling. Michael Schober, a psychologist at The New School for Social Research found that, “The lack of time pressure and social pressure of texting leads people to disclose more information and be more honest.”

Big Data Political Polls

“Big Data are where more accurate results will come from,” says Joe Twyman of YouGov. “It will be about linking a respondent’s voting data with internet usage, other survey data, and demographic information, creating a much richer picture of that person, which will allow for more accurate granulations of predictions.” So while the low cost of internet polling has led to a surge in the number of polls and a corresponding surge in the poor quality level of the results, view these problems as transitional and the future as bright with the depth and breadth Big Data polling will provide.


In the meantime, get out and vote!


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And, after you have voted, give Lindsey Bartlett, Market Research Recruiter at Smith Hanley Associates, a call about your job search or your hiring need. As our new President will, she stands ready to serve.



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