The Kitchens Group

The Polling Elephant in the Room  
Here we are about 18 months before the off-year election and no one has seriously addressed the elephant in the room, namely, the crisis in polling. Trying to conduct telephone-based polls, even with cell phones, is going the way of the dinosaurs.  There is a reason every major market research firm has turned to Internet panels for data collection.  There is a reason that the major news outlets like NBC and The New York Times are partnered with an Internet platform to conduct their voter surveys.
The 2016 election required pollsters to do more modeling and weighting than any year since polling became an accepted part of campaigns. There is an echoing mantra I keep hearing since the 2016 election --  THE POLLS WERE WRONG. My biggest concern is that academic types are now producing analysis indicating response rates to telephone surveys are so low the data is being skewed.
If only left-handed people were interviewed during a survey, wouldn't a campaign question whether the sample is representative of the electorate? Of course.  So, why wouldn't we use the same logic when a poll only focuses on voters who still use landlines or who will answer an unknown call on their cell phone?
Changing the way pollsters have operated for 30 years is hard, frightening, and bold.  But, if we don't do it, that big elephant will be sitting in our living room in November 2018.

By The Numbers#

The defenders of phone polling say 40% of American households have landlines.  However, a study by the RAND Corporation indicates only 20% of American households say the landline is important for their communication needs.  In other words, half the remaining landlines will never be answered when a pollster calls.  We refer to these as "non-functional landlines".  They are in households because it is needed for a security system or as part of a cable package.  You can call these landlines a thousand times, and no one will ever answer.
Pew Research reveals a move toward an increasing dependency upon the Internet.  In 2000, nearly half of the American population did not use the Internet.  Today, only 13% of Americans say they do not use the Internet.  As any social scientist could predict, those less likely to use the Internet are poor, elderly, rural folks.  If we look at the demographics of people NOT likely to vote, they are poor, elderly, rural folks.  So, the percentage of likely voters who use the Internet is probably around 98%.  

James T. Kitchens, Ph.D.

The Kitchens Group has interviewed more than 5 million Americans on a wide spectrum of subjects including presidential elections, environmental initiatives, consumer purchases, and the use of social media by Wall Street investors.  Dr. Kitchens is the author of The Four Pillars of Politics:   Why Some Candidates Don't Win And Others Can't Lead.

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