Jingle Jangle Mourning

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Commenter “chaddogg*” has some questions about whether pollsters’ inability to properly survey cell-phone-only voters (who tend to be young) means that news organizations are underestimating support for Obama:

I have a question, Ana Marie:

Are the polls missing youth voters, and thus UNDERSTATING Obama’s numbers?

Here’s why I’m wondering this:
1) These polls are conducted by telephone.
2) Laws prohibit pollsters (like telemarketers) from dialing cell phones.
3) This means these telephone polls are done of landline telephones exclusively.
4) Youth voters (18-30) are the demographic most likely to forego a landline entirely and just use a cell phone for everything (I know it’s anecdotal, but NONE of my friends – I’m 28 – have a landline).
5) Youth voters are also the one block Obama is DOMINATING in across all races and genders.

So does this add up to pollster bias against Obama’s impressive youth support? Or do the pollsters somehow account for this “youth voters only use cell phones” factor in their polling results?

The short answers: Not as much as you’d think and to the extent that they can. Fortunately, others have explored these questions in depth.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The impact of losing cellphone-only respondents, however, may be exaggerated. Their numbers aren’t big enough to budge most poll results by more than a point or two, Gallup has found.

People who use only cellphones, on average, are younger, more likely to rent their homes and have lower incomes than their tethered-telephone peers. But once you adjust for age, cellphone-only users have similar political viewpoints. Although he thinks cellphones should be included, Jeffrey M. Jones, managing editor of the Gallup Poll, asks, “It’s still a lot of cost and effort, and what’s the payoff?”

From a Pew study:

On key political measures such as presidential approval, Iraq policy, presidential primary voter preference, and party affiliation, respondents reached on cell phones hold attitudes that are very similar to those reached on landline telephones. Analysis of two separate nationwide studies shows that including interviews conducted by cell phone does not substantially change any key survey findings.

Both links via Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal, who has also written up the issue.

* Fixed! Sorry, chaddogg.

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