Cellphones, Landlines Expose Political Party Divide

If a cell phone user takes a pollster’s call, he or she is more likely to be a Democrat. If a land-line user takes a pollster’s call, he or she is more likely to be a Republican.
by | May 25, 2012
 

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times

This just in from the Technology and Politics Desk: If a cell phone user takes a pollster’s call, he or she is more likely to be a Democrat. If a land-line user takes a pollster’s call, he or she is more likely to be a Republican.

Gross generalization? Of course.

But it contains a kernel of truth, and gets at an issue that pollsters have been dealing with for years as more people disconnect landlines in favor of cell phones. In the aggregate, people who answer pollsters on their landlines tend to be more conservative than people who answer pollsters on cell phones.

That makes a certain kind of ‘no duh’ sense, given that cell phone technology is newer, and younger people are – again, in general -- better adapters. (Unlike their parents and grandparents, young adults don’t sit around fretting about how they would call 911 in event of a dead cell phone during a hypothetical emergency. Because they plan to live forever.)

A tidbit from three new NBC-Marist state polls--which surveyed registered voters in Virginia, Ohio and Florida about the presidential campaign--bears out the tele-generation gap.

In its story about the poll results, MSNBC’s First Read points out that in the Florida poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “leads with landline respondents, 48%-45%.” President Obama “leads among cell phone respondents, 57-34%.” The numbers were similar in Virginia, though not noted for Ohio. Slightly more than a quarter of those polled answered on their cell phones in all three states.

It’s hard to know whether this means anything to the campaigns, whose own sophisticated polling operations surely take into account these kinds of discrepancies. “We don’t usually remark on any given poll,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan. The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s the oft-maligned polling profession that is struggling to adjust.

For a discussion of some of the challenges facing pollsters, the Pew Research Center investigated the cellphone vs landline issue in 2010.

Pew reported that “The number of Americans who rely solely or mostly on a cell phone has been growing for several years, posing an increasing likelihood that public opinion polls conducted only by landline telephone will be biased.”

Pew’s analysis of pre-election surveys that year found that “support for Republican candidates was significantly higher in samples based only on landlines than in…samples that combined landline and cell phone interviews.”

©2012 the Los Angeles Times

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