The Bars of a Cell

November 3, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has some information on a question I’ve been wondering about for some time:
  • What are pollsters doing about sampling cell phone users
  • Does it make a difference whether they are sampled?
The answers:
  • It depends on the pollster
  • Yes
The polls in the Cingular-y orange color include cellphones in their samples; the polls in gray do not. The cellphone polls have Obama ahead by an average of 9.4 points; the landline-only polls, 5.1 points.

I did a radio hit the other afternoon with Mark DeCamillo of California's vaunted Field Poll, which does include cellphones in their samples. He suggested to me that it was much easier to get the cooperation of cellphone users on the weekend than during the week. How come? Because most cellphone plans include free weekend minutes. Conversely, one might expect that young people are particularly difficult to reach on their landlines over the weekend, since they tend to be away from home more (especially on a weekend when some nontrivial number of them are out volunteering for Obama). So, while I haven't tried to verify this, it wouldn't surprise me if the "cellphone gap" expands over the weekend, and contracts during the week.

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