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EAST LANSING, Mich. - As the landline home telephone goes the way of the manual typewriter, the mobile phone is playing an ever more important role in political polling as the 2014 elections approach, according to a national opinion research expert.
Paul Lavrakas, an expert on polling methodology, said after a lecture at Michigan State University that polling companies are overcoming obstacles that make it more expensive to include mobile telephone users in their samples.
It's essential that cellphones be included in telephone polls because the demographic characteristics of landline users and mobile telephone users are vastly different, he said.
Fewer than 10% of interviews from landline samples come from people 35 and younger, he said. More than 40% of interviews from cellphone samples come from that age group.
Lavrakas, a consultant who holds a doctorate in research psychology and formerly was chief research methodologist for Nielsen Media Research, said the public should be suspicious of telephone polls that don't include cellphone users, and it's up to those who report the poll to include information about what percentage of those sampled used mobile phones.
The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits pollsters from using automatic dialing to contact cellphone users unless those users have consented. Nearly all pollsters use automatic dialing because manual dialing takes longer, is more error-prone and doesn't tie in with their computer systems.
But Lavrakas said polling companies are finding that the manual dialing required for cellphone polling is not as cost-prohibitive as they feared.
He said he advises pollsters to get at least 45% of their samples from cellphone users, preferably 50%.
"Many of the best media-sponsored polls are doing this today," he said.
"But those that are getting fewer than 40% should be asked why?"
Paul Egan , Detroit Free Press