Election season is in full swing, as are the political polls that gauge candidates’ status among the electorate. Political polls are used to decipher opinions and perceptions about an issue or a candidate. The first known poll in American history dates all the way back to 1824, and was a straw poll conducted to measure the popularity of Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams.
Nowadays, opinion polls are performed utilizing myriad methodologies and technologies. Popular polling methods include IVR based polls that rely on automated systems for data collection, live telephone polls, in person polling, web-based polling via email and social media and even print based surveying. But these polling methods do not yield the same results.
An article by Nate Cohn featured in The New Republic explores the differences between live interview and automated IVR polls. Cohn compares two months worth of presidential polling results to ascertain whether different types of polls would yield the same or similar results.
What he found was fascinating. Per the article “over the last two months, there has been a clear gap between live interview and automated (IVR) pollsters. Obama seems to have a big lead in live polling, but the robots find a closer race.”’
So why the discrepancy? There are several factors that are potentially contributing to these varying results. First, a majority of the polls being analyzed for this study are being conducted in battleground states (Virginia, Ohio, Florida) and a majority of these polls were conducted via an IVR system. These automated polls work in tandem with auto dialers to solicit the opinions of a random sample of voters in these states and account for the bulk of reported statistics
Why do automated polls represent the bulk of total polls? In comparison with live polls, automated polls deployed via IVR surveys are much more cost efficient. It is costly for political pollsters to conduct live interviews, which means that there is a disproportionate amount of automated data.
One of the key differences between the two types of surveys is that, according to Cohn, the live polls reached out to respondents on their cell phones. A major caveat for those conducting automated polls is that they are “unable to contact voters who only posses a cell phone, and these voters are disproportionately young and non-white.”
There are no perceivable flaws in IVR administered polls or surveys (as opposed to polls conducted live), the technology is restricted and mandated by polling rules and regulations that limit and prevent outbound cell phone calls to cell phones.
So how does this cell phone restriction affect automated polls? Stay tuned for The Cell Phones Have It…