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Landlines Dropping, so Pollsters Eye Cell Phones

January 28, 2016

During this Presidential election year, organizations of every stripe will be carrying out survey after survey to determine the status of each candidate. This means calling every age, race and religion group to see where they stand. And for one particular age group, they can only be contacted with wireless phones, because that is the only communications device they use.

Kent McDill reported on MillionaireCorner.com the changes Pew (News - Alert) Research is undergoing to address this very issue of landline phone abandonment and wireless ownership. According to McDill, the research firm announced in December of 2014 that it will be increasing its percentage of cellphone interviewees to 75 percent for the majority of its 2016 telephone surveys.

Being a research firm, Pew conducted a study to determine what particular groups are using only wireless telephony. And its research concluded young individuals, Hispanics and urban dwellers were the largest adopters. So any valid survey that doesn’t include these groups is leaving out a large portion of the population.

Now that they have been identified, the next step is calling them to conduct the survey. But federal regulations don’t allow cellphone owners to be contacted with an auto-dialer. This means each number must be dialed by a human being, making it much more expensive than conducting surveys on land line phones.

McDill said, “It does lend some companies to forego cellphone users. While including cellphone users in survey results is beneficial to the survey companies, it also comes with a price.”

Another problem cellphone surveys face is the share of sampled and dialed numbers by interviewers that are not working. According to Pew, the U.S. cellphone random digit dial (RDD) frame was 38 percent, which is quite high when you consider a person is dialing each of those numbers.

The industry is starting to rely on RDD sample vendors that are able to provide services to increase the chances of reaching a working number by identifying and discarding mobile numbers that are non-working before it is dialed. Using activity flags, users are able to tell if a sampled number is active and working. This is based on real tests to see if it is a working number, or recent calling activity. Pew said the flag is generally available for more than 95 percent of cellphone numbers.

So if you think you can escape a survey during this election season because you have a cellphone, it won’t be long before you are asked to answer some questions.