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October 17, 2004

Why Wireless Phones Matter

A lot of folks have wondered what impact cell phones have on polls. Mystery Pollster argues that people with only wireless phones are a small part of the population-- roughly 5% -- so they are unlikely to skew poll results.

I'm one of that small group, having dropped my landline over a year ago, but I think this misses a bigger impact of cell phones. Even if you have a landline, having a cell phone means that many people never answer the phone-- they just let the answering machine pick up calls. Most people have people in their lives that they want to answer the phone immediately for, but folks with cell phones can give that number to close friends. For everyone else-- including pollsters-- they get the answering machine even when the person is home.

The cell phone plus answering machine crowd is likely the bigger source of cell phone distortion of polls. How much, who knows, but I still would bet on polls being more askew this year than four years ago.

Posted by Nathan at October 17, 2004 08:55 AM