Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral College

Writing today over at Pollster.com, Brian Schaffner notes the real difference between those national polls that include in their samples cell phone only voters (CPO voters, or the landline-less) and those that don't include such voters. In short, Schaffner writes, "As of Monday morning, Obama's lead was 4.2% larger in the national trend accounting for the CPO population than it was among the landline-only polls."

Schaffner then goes a step further in applying this difference to the individual states, the polling in which for the most part excludes the CPO population. The results are quite interesting.

If you make no CPO adjustment and give each state to the candidate currently leading, Obama wins 367 electoral votes, narrowly losing Indiana, Montana, and Georgia and narrowly winning North Carolina and Missouri. Making a conservative CPO adjustment by adding 2% to Obama's margin in each state pushes Indiana and Montana into Obama's column, giving him 381 electoral votes. Finally, if you make a 4% CPO adjustment to Obama's margins in each state (based on the differences in the national trends), Georgia suddenly shifts into Obama's column, giving him 396 electoral votes. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that the cell phone only population is not evenly distributed across the 50 states so not all states will be affected in the same way. But if you believe that there is a cell phone only effect that the state trends are not capturing, then states like Virginia, Nevada, and Ohio are not even that close right now and Obama has a good chance of winning in Indiana, Montana, Georgia, and possibly even Arizona.

This might be the type of study that is better left until after the election than to predict tomorrow's results, but it does raise some interesting questions. I, for one, count myself among the landline-less, as does Josh. I'd imagine that we're not the only two here in the MyDD community who only use cell phones (if there are others out there, please do chime in in the comments section). Given that this demographic does appear to lean Democratic, perhaps all pollsters -- not just those in the field nationwide but also those polling the states -- are going to have to take a real hard look at how to account for the preferences of the CPO population. And while I'm not certain that the exclusion of these voters from traditional polls is worth 30 electoral votes for Barack Obama, it could very well be that it's worth something meaningful nonetheless.

Josh and I are up in Las Vegas through election day blogging about the campaign, and our coverage has graciously been sponsored by SEIU.

Tags: Cell Phone Only Voters, electoral college, White House 2008 (all tags)



Re: Cell Phone Only Voters

"Chiming in." I've only got a cell phone. And it bugs me when campaigns or pollsters know who I am.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-11-03 02:54PM | 0 recs
I'd be willing to bet

there's a good size cellphone-only population in Arizona.  Two big universities.

by sneakers563 2008-11-03 02:56PM | 0 recs
minorities are landlineless

as well, don't forget. (on the average, the tilt, whateva)

by RisingTide 2008-11-04 07:46AM | 0 recs
Any stats?

I don't have a land-line, either.  Anyone know the number of people who don't have land-lines?

by ProfessorReo 2008-11-03 03:01PM | 0 recs
Nevermind. I googled the answer. 17%

of American households are cell-phone only.  That's a HUGE number of people.  

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/17 snip-nearly-one-fifth-of-homes-have-no- landline

by ProfessorReo 2008-11-03 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters and the EC

I'm 37, and I haven't had a land-line since 2000.

by Dreorg 2008-11-03 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters

Well, one thing is certain. Pundits and analysts will have a TON of new data to discuss after tomorrow: the cell phone only vote, the Bradley Effect (if in fact it really exists), young voter turnout, African-American turnout, Obama's ground game effect, and on and on, not to mention the too numerous to mention Republican platform shortcomings (being kind there). And then there's the Bush effect. I can't help but wonder if Bush will end up being completely skewered over time, blamed for costing the party e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I certainly hope so.

by phoenixdreamz 2008-11-03 03:08PM | 0 recs
Cellphone effect > Bradley effect.

It won't be a contest.  

by ProfessorReo 2008-11-03 03:10PM | 0 recs
2 CPO, never-polled Obama voters in this house

My wife and I are both CPO, both strong Democrats (and Obama voters) and neither of us have ever been polled, and we are voting tomorrow in VA

by ajpuckett 2008-11-03 03:16PM | 0 recs
Cell Phone Only

I haven't had a landline in about 3-4 years.  Nearly everyone that I know who is younger than 30 (I'm a grad student, so that's just about everyone not related to me) has only a cell phone.  What's more, the few people I know under 30 who do have landlines are all on the conservative continuum (some extremely conservative, others only slightly).  I am pretty certain that being conservative makes one more likely to have a landline because it allows one to put on the kind of public face that they tend to value somewhat more.  It could also be a matter of conservatives may be more likely to have families slightly younger than liberals and having a family might make one feel the need to have a landline?  Anyone else have some insight?

by ProgressiveDL 2008-11-03 03:36PM | 0 recs
Luddite here

under 30 and no cell phone.

I don't need people tracking me, thanks!

Conservatives are more likely to do conservative things, like owning a phoneline (or having dialup)

by RisingTide 2008-11-04 07:48AM | 0 recs
never been polled

live in smalltown/big city too. (what kind of big city leaves pots of candy out on halloween??)

by RisingTide 2008-11-04 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral Colle

Preliminary results from the July-
December 2007 National Health
Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that
nearly one out of every six American
homes (15.8%) had only wireless
telephones during the second half of
2007.  In addition, more than one out of
every eight American homes (13.1%)
health. received all or almost all calls on
wireless telephones  
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyr elease/wireless200805.pdf

Also about 7% of households do not have access to a phone wireline or wireless. This is highly concentrated in African American and particularly Native American communities. Usually, pollsters can ignore those people because they don't vote. Will that hold?

by redwagon 2008-11-03 03:55PM | 0 recs
what about us?

I have a voice-over-IP phone (Vonage) in addition to a cell.  I have received zero calls from any campaigns.  Glad to pile on.  dun dun dun!!

by talktomei 2008-11-03 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: what about us?

Yeah I'm in that catergory too..> I have VOIP but don't answer any calls coming in on it.

by yitbos96bb 2008-11-03 04:42PM | 0 recs
Another one here

Another cell phone only person here... my wife and I got married in August and neither of us have had landlines for at least 4 years.

by sorrodos 2008-11-03 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral Colle

I've been cell-phone only since about 2003... I last had a phone in Ohio and since moved to Boston and then Los Angeles, so I'm completely "off the grid."

by auronrenouille 2008-11-03 04:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral Colle

Technically, I have a landline... but only because it was cheaper WITH the Comcast VOIP than without.  I don't even know the actual number... only pick up calls from known numbers and rarely ever use it.

My cell is my main phone... so while I am technically not CPO, I pretty much operate CPO.

by yitbos96bb 2008-11-03 04:42PM | 0 recs

I have never had a landline. Within the last month, because of some serious belt-tightening, my parents (ohio smalltown republicans) dropped their landline. So its not just young yuppies.

by oyo 2008-11-03 05:04PM | 0 recs
Working at a very large university,

and working with quite a few students, I don't know a single one who has a land line.  As well as all of my younger colleagues.  Nor me.

by aggieric 2008-11-03 05:27PM | 0 recs
Re: New Voters

My 35 year old brother, along with his wife, both voted last week for the first times in their lives.

One of my co-workers is voting tomorrow for the first time in her life, less than a year after claiming that the only person that would get her to go to the polls was Rudy Giuliani.

Another is also voting tomorrow for the first time, and, having recently moved, is leaving work at noon to do so in order to make sure that if she runs into any problems she has time to get them corrected and still vote.

Yet another labels herself a staunch republican, but yesterday I walked in on her watching the Obama TV special online, and she now refuses to talk to her fiance about the election.

A fourth co-worker has also never voted for president before - but for the past two months, he has made a point to tell me every time he receives an email from the Obama campaign, and will be voting tomorrow.

Each of these people will be voting for Obama. None has a landline. I'm sure there are stories similar to these that end with "voting for McCain", but I haven't heard any of them.

by dgodz1 2008-11-03 06:22PM | 0 recs
chiming in

cell-phone only as well, so is my girlfriend (a progressive but not a MyDD subscriber)

by tegrat 2008-11-03 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral Colle

I'm cell phone only. I'll get calls from the Democrats because I've given them my number when I donated, but I never get polls. (I got one poll call about 3 years ago when I last had a landline.)

by indythink 2008-11-04 02:24AM | 0 recs
I think there are two VERY different types of

Cellphone-only people that need to be polled for proper calculations.

1. The itinerant technophiles.  That may include Jonathan and Josh.  I know it includes my older brother, who is a bigger geek than I am.  He sees no point in paying for a landline phone when he's already paying so much for cellphone and wireless broadband.  He thinks landlines are archaic.

2. Another group you may not have thought of -- and that's stoners and poor people and people with life problems that make getting a landline difficult to impossible.  There are a lot of those, including my ex-wife who trashed her credit rating and can't get a landline.  You also see a lot of first and second generation Hispanics, although they might not be as likely to register or vote, or even eligible.  I'm saying this is a whole different aspect of of the CPO situation with very different considerations.

by Dumbo 2008-11-04 03:09AM | 0 recs


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