Accuracy, Future of Phone Polls in Doubt
Some experts believe that traditional methods of polling -- particularly telephone polls -- are no longer reliable. Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University, believes that the era of telephone polling is coming to an end. "This may be the last election where you'll see such a proliferation of telephone polls," he says.
Several factors play into the decline in the reliability of telephone polling:
- More Americans rely on cell phones, and many -- especially young people -- use them as their primary phones. Cell phone numbers aren't listed, and pollsters would hesitate to call them anyway as the recipient has to pay for incoming calls.
- The prevalence of answering machines and Caller ID allows for the easy screening of calls. In many households, an incoming call from an unfamiliar number is automatically ignored.
- Many newly-registered voters are poor, and don't have phones at all. If these voters turn out in large numbers, they will invalidate much of the polling, regardless of how they vote.
- The response rate of telephone polls -- that is, the percentage of people who agree to participate in them -- has dropped dramatically, from as high as 80% in the 1960s to as low as 10% today. Some statisticians believe that the response rate is now too low to provide an accurate sample of opinions.