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Column: Too Many Automated Polls Now? Just Wait

Topics: 2010 , Automated polls , IVR , IVR Polls , Massachusetts , Precision Polling , Rasmussen

My column today considers the proliferation of inexpensive automated surveys and two developments that promise to fuel even more growth: Two companies that promise to offer the ability to conduct an automated telephone poll for less than a thousand dollars.

I filed the column on Friday afternoon, which in Massachusetts Senate time was seven polls ago, and those new polls underscore the message of the column. Nine of the 16 polls we logged on Pollster.com since January 1used an automated telephone methodology, including 5 of the last 7. Two of the surveys, those sponsored by Pajamas Media and and InsideMedford.com, used pollsters whose work we have not previously tracked.

Of those 15 polls, only two -- the surveys conducted by the University of New Hampshire and Suffolk University -- had traditional, mainstream media sponsors. The rest were conducted or sponsored by polling public relations, political partisans, "new media" web sites or some combination of these three.

So the vision of the future described in the column is, in many ways, already upon us.

 

Comments

I continue to question automated polling in this era of cell phone only growth in the general population. I've seen surveys that now show that upwards of 20% of the population no longer have a landline.

Since it is illegal under Federal law for polling firms to randomly dial a cell phone, won't that issue alone disqualify many of the automated polling firms in terms of accuracy?

I recall all of the jokes about the 1932 FDR/Herbert Hoover election, where telephone polling showed Hoover to be a big winner and of course FDR won in a huge landslide. The reason? Polling firms used telephones and over a third of the US families in that era -- mostly the ones that were natural Democratic constituencies -- didn't even have phones.

Aren't we going in that direction now?

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poughies:

If Pajamas Media gets the final result right, what does that mean for the future of polling? Joe Smith in Iowa is going to start publishing polls non-stop. Good luck with compiling all the polls.

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hobetoo:

And next it will be Boxer Shorts media?

Assessing quality is still going to be a matter of having a track record, the sample, the screens used, the weighting of results. Unless we get full disclosure and some form of "quality assurance" score on polls -- one that is credible with the media -- we will go further and further downhill. All published polls will come to be scene as nothing but part of an effort to create opinion via the media.

(As for me, I hang up on robocalls 100% of the time. But there's always a greater fool out there.)

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