October 24, 2014

Robopolls versus live interviews

Considering political polls’ methodology.

Among recently-released polls in Wisconsin in the state’s U.S. Senate race and the presidential race, some surveys are automated while others have individuals conducting the interviews. Also, those using recorded voices are not allowed to dial up cell phones. “Some people call them robocalls, where a recorded voice asks you the questions and tells you to press one for Democrat, two for Republican, and so on.”

Charles Franklin is poll director for the Marquette University Law School poll, which is conducted live and includes mobile phones. Public Policy Polling (PPP) is an automated survey — or robopoll — and so is Rasmussen Reports. “Those polls cannot include cell phones because federal regulations prevent the automatic dialing of cell phones. So one important difference is between the non-cell phone automated polls and the live interviewer with cell phones that we do.”

Some argue results are less reliable when respondents answer questions by pressing keys on their touch-tone device. Also, nearly one-third of the households in Wisconsin have done away with land lines and rely solely on cell phones, so a good chunk of potential voters gets ignored. The advantage of robopolls is that they are inexpensive.

The Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS poll uses live interviewers and cell phones. The Feldman poll is from the Baldwin campaign. Franklin notes Feldman does live interviews and calls cell phones, but stresses the importance in taking into consideration a campaign’s need to release polls that make them look good.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:36