Cell Phone Only Voters and the Electoral College
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 02:52:47 PM EST
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.