Forget Red or Blue State: Are You Wireless or Wireline?

By Tom Hayes, Publisher, Edgelings

Nip and tuck.  That’s what most political polls describe the race between Barrack Obama and John McCain.  Might as well throw the polls in the trash.  Turns out that standard political polls exclude cell-phone only voters-those young, tech savvy, largely Democratic (but not always)  voters-who no longer bother to install a landline in their homes or apartments.  If that is the case, we know every little about true public opinion and this presidential election is probably not close at all.

I know at least a dozen people who don’t have phones in their homes.  Don’t get me wrong; these folks are very connected and often have multiple cell phones in their lives; they simply no longer bother with a redundant landline in their homes.  And my friends are not alone. More than 32 million American adults have now ditched landlines for cell phones, up from 10 million in 2004, according to a recent federal study.  Problem is: the opinions of these people are not captured by current political polling.  That’s right, the pollsters don’t call cell phones.  As a result of this structural flaw, a giant swath of American opinion is missed and as a result we have no idea where this race for the White House stands today.

This oversight is another example of how the political process has failed to keep up with our changing culture-a culture being rapidly reshaped by technology.  Just as political operatives everywhere were overwhelmed by Senator Obama’s ability to raise a quarter of a billion dollars in $100 increments via the Internet, the polling professionals failed to appreciate that a big and growing block of Americans don’t see the logic in having both mobile and landlines.  It’s a new mindset created by our emerging mobility and technical power.  And frankly, even if pollsters started calling cell phones tonight, they won’t find the same kinds of people at the other end of the handset.  First, the young, tech savvy voter isn’t going to stop the car or leave the restaurant to take a survey.  They probably aren’t going to take your call, at all, frankly, because they don’t know you.  And they certainly won’t be solicited by some stranger to think or act or vote in a particular manner.  Instead, he or she is getting all the information they want from a small coterie of friends and associates who share ideas, review and recommend products, and gossip about stuff they have already decided to care about.  They likely prefer to chat via IM, maybe a leisurely email, more likely a Twitter or Pownce blast.  As such, their attitudes and opinions probably won’t be the same as the land-bound phone owner.   

Nope, even if the political pollsters start calling the cell-phone only households right now, they would probably be amazed by how out of touch they are with the new America.  Forget Red State or Blue State, the question is: are you wireless or wireline?