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21st Century Technological Challenges

Public opinion polls confront new challenges in the 21st century

  • There is an increasing skepticism, even cynicism, about poll findings
  • A growing number of potential respondents are refusing to participate in the poll
  • Answering machines & caller ID seem not to have a significant impact on completed interviews - though the response rate for complete interviews continues to decline
  • Although no-call lists do not apply to public opinion polls, they may have affect the willingness of those listed to respond to polls

Technological advances present polls with both opportunities and obstacles

The Internet

  • Conducting polls over the internet is much faster and cheaper
  • Internet polls sometimes get results close to those of telephone polls, and sometimes not -- with a difference that is still a mystery
  • People who use VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) for their telephone will be included in a telephone sample only if they are using their old telephone number - otherwise they will be missed altogether

Cell phones (1)

  • Although more and more Americans are using cell phones for their primary telephone, only 8% of the population relies exclusively on cell phones
  • Because federal regulations ban the inclusion of cell phone numbers for random digit (i.e., automatic) dialing, a growing number of Americans are being left out of the pool of potential respondents
  • Compared to landline users, cell phone-only users are
    • More likely to be under 30
    • Less likely to be married
    • Less likely to have children
    • Less likely to be homeowners
    • More likely to have a lower family income
    • Nonetheless, including cell phone-only users makes little difference in the aggregate polling results
    • Because many adolescents and younger children have their own cell phone many of those contacted do not fall into the standard age frame of 18 and older

(1) Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Cell Phone Challenge to Survey Research," May 15, 2006

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