Polling: Not Dead Yet.

Nate Cohn is the polling guy at the NYTimes (side question: are all the polling gurus required to be named “Nate”?) is asked about the legitimacy of the polling:

[Q] Given that pollsters are relying on calling people on the phone (per your methodology description at the bottom of the poll), how do you know where they are, and how do you account for the fact that so few people answer their phones at all anymore? I for one have moved twice since I got my current phone number, most recently to a different state, so my phone number has nothing to do with my actual location. Meanwhile, most of my calls are spam, so I almost never answer my phone unless I recognize the phone number — and I am someone who is old enough to have grown up with what is now called a landline. My teenage kids almost never answer their phones at all. The only people I know who still ever use a landline at all are my parents. — Doug Berman, West Jordan, Utah

And Nate takes the question apart and answers each one, but one question/answer pair really stands out to me:

How do you account for the fact that few people answer? Before I respond, I want to dwell on just how few people are answering. In the poll we have in the field right now, only 0.4 percent of dials have yielded a completed interview. If you were employed as one of our interviewers at a call center, you would have to dial numbers for two hours to get a single completed interview.

No, it wasn’t nearly this bad six, four or even two years ago. You can see for yourself that around 1.6 percent of dials yielded a completed interview in our 2018 polling.

The Times has more resources than most organizations, but this is getting pretty close to “death of telephone polling” numbers. You start wondering how much more expensive it would be to try even ridiculous options like old-fashioned door-to-door, face-to-face, in-person interviews.

So even the polling gurus are pretty much saying that telephone polls are, um, dying, if not already dead.

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3 Responses to Polling: Not Dead Yet.

  1. By the time we gave up our landline the ONLY calls we had gotten for a tear or more were political and/or spam calls, and that was back in 2017 or so. I think I have gotten a legitimate polling call once in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We moved our landline number to an early smartphone. Funny thing, a storm took out a brace of Chinese elms in the back yard, which in turn took out ALL the landline wires. Nobody complained, because precisely nobody had a traditional landline!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stony Pillow says:

    Time to grasp the nettle and PAY a representative sample of voters to answer surveys.

    Works for Nielsen, works for product research, works for pre-trial research. Heck, I’ve enthusiastically made a few bucks from time to time on the last two.

    And you know they vote – you can look it up.

    I will not answer my tracker if it’s an unknown number.

    Liked by 1 person

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