Not only do I enjoy taking polls (the short and sweet ones... not the four-page pamphlets that you receive in the mail about your laundry, cooking, cleaning, and recreational habits), but I also create the majority of polls that appear on TechRepublic. Perhaps that's why this particular news story by Will Lester of The Associated Press captured my attention today: "Cell-Phone-Only Crowd May Alter Polling."
According to the story, "...one in 10 Americans... have given up traditional telephones and depend only on their cell phones. That trend is making pollsters uneasy... [because] their survey research depends on contacting random samples of households with landline phones. They worry that if the trend continues they could miss a significant number of people and that could undermine their ability to accurately measure public opinion. There could be implications for politics, government policy, academia, business and journalism."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics recently released data that indicates 7.8 percent of adults live in households with only a cell phone, and that group is increasing almost 1 percent every six months.
An AP-AOL-Pew survey distinguishes the two types of phone owners: "Those who only have cell phones are significantly different in many ways - typically younger, less affluent, more likely to be single, and more liberal on many political issues - from those who can be reached by landline."
What I find especially interesting about this story is that I was considering canceling my landline just last night, since my son and I both have cell phones and we hardly ever use the home phone. I do believe that we are about to contribute to this growing phenomenon and concern by pollsters. However, the versatile pollster will still be able to reach me online, since I'm here every week day and I'm connected via cable at home. It's time for polls to branch out a bit and search the various avenues where the population they're seeking is hanging out. Maybe TiVo? MySpace? Back to door-to-door polling?
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.