Home > Myth, Obama, Obama Supporters > The cellphone polling myth

The cellphone polling myth

You’ve probably heard the same new favorite myth of the Obama Supporters: that because youth rely on cell phones, they are drastically under-represented in the polls.  If not, here are some examples of the myth:

Peter Dreier (Huffington Post, The Nation, etc):

Because so many young people rely on cell phones, they are undercounted in public opinion polls, which mainly survey people using home phone numbers.

John Baer (Philidelphia Daily News):

Realities of life: Older people tend to be home and answer the phone; younger people tend not to have landlines, and no one does cell-phone polling.

Carl Cannon (National Journal):

[Y]oung people are difficult to survey because so many of them lack “land line” telephones…..and, believe me, these young voters are living in Obama-land.

Gosh, these Obama Supporters sure sound certain of this theory!  There’s only one problem – it isn’t true.

Gallup Polls:

Survey Methods:

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,015 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 15-16, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

Pew Research:

In order to assess the possible bias in our landline samples, we periodically sample cellular telephone numbers and systematically compare the results from the cell phone sample with those from our landline samples. Our most recent analysis released in January 2008 The Impact of “Cell-Onlys” On Public Opinion Polling, indicates that when data from both the landline and cell samples are combined and weighted to match the U.S. population on selected demographic measures, the results for key political measures (such as presidential approval, Iraq policy, presidential primary voter preference, and party affiliation) are virtually identical to those from the landline survey alone.

The sort of wishful thinking that allows such delusions is disheartening.  The Obamabots would do better just to face the facts.

Categories: Myth, Obama, Obama Supporters
  1. BA
    September 19, 2008 at 6:22 am

    I guess they should be called at 3 a.m.

  2. myiq2xu
    September 20, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Keep telling the truth and you’ll get waterboarded with Kool-aid.

  3. alan
    September 20, 2008 at 5:19 am

    This could be reliable; however, how was the universe of cell phone only users selected? Was it random? Did it make use of a database? If the latter, are people who make their cell phone numbers public different from those who don’t? To be accurate with statistics, you have to consider every angle.

  4. fredshelm
    September 20, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Alan, it’s not as complicated as you make it sound. There’s a certain percentage of people that use only cellphones amongst those that use cellphones. This can be found easily by polling cellphone users.

  5. dupager
    September 21, 2008 at 11:57 am

    interestingly, i recall (but don’t have cites to hand) that this same “young people use cell phones only” was bandied about in Kerrry v Bush, 2004, to explain the tight race there as well. At the time I believed it. Now, not so much.

  6. fredshelm
    September 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    dupager, we’ve all believed myths at one point or another. What I find disturbing is the complete lack of desire amongst those perpetuating these myths to actually investigate them when it’s SO EASY to do so.

  7. Jim Gilliam
    September 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Federal law makes calling cell phone illegal. Also, many use the Pew exit polling study in 2004 to justify that cell phone don’t affect the results; however, it is not clear the 2004 study is still valid in 2008. I believe the election result will shock the pollsters — wait and see. Also, I think it is just great that McCain is being shown doing so well.

  8. fredshelm
    September 23, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Erm, Jim, no it doesn’t. And if it did, I’d at least expect you to cite the law in question.

    I agree, on the election results though. After all of the embarrassing discrepancies the pollsters went through in the primaries, why not one more time?

  9. Mary Valentine
    September 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Please read the following. We’ll take the 2 or 3 points, thanks.


  10. fredshelm
    September 24, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Mary, don’t you know it’s rude to respond to an article without reading it first?

    I’ve seen those results already.

    If you’ll please read my article, you’ll note that polling agencies, including pew research, INCORPORATE CELL PHONE RESULTS INTO THEIR TOTAL NUMBERS. What is so extremely difficult to understand about that?

  11. September 28, 2008 at 12:47 am

    I honestly agree with the results as well. I believe that fredshelm has a very strong point.

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