The Impact of “Cell-Onlys” on Public Opinion Polls

  • January 31, 2008
  • By Scott Keeter, Michael Dimock, Leah Christian, and Courtney Kennedy

The proportion of Americans who rely solely on a cell phone for their telephone service continues to grow, as does the share who still have a landline phone but do most of their calling on their cell phone. With these changes, there is an increased concern that polls conducted only on landline telephones may not accurately measure public opinion. This Pew Research Center study finds that, while different demographically, Americans who mostly or exclusively rely on cell phones are not substantially different from the landline population in their basic political attitudes and preferences.

On key political measures such as presidential approval, Iraq policy, presidential primary voter preference, and party affiliation, respondents reached on cell phones hold attitudes that are very similar to those reached on landline telephones. Analysis of two separate nationwide studies shows that including interviews conducted by cell phone does not substantially change any key survey findings.

These findings are based on two surveys of adults, conducted Oct. 17-23 and Dec. 19-30, 2007 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The surveys included interviews with a total of 2,596 adults reached in a conventional landline sample, as well as 841 adults interviewed on their cell phones, using a sample drawn from a nationally representative cell telephone number database. Of those reached on a cell phone, 312 people (or 37%) reported that their cell phone is their only phone.

Read the full report The Impact of “Cell-Onlys” on Public Opinion Polls on the Pew Research Center Web site.