We’ve written at length about the rapid changes in the ways in which Americans communicate and the impacts on political professions, particularly survey researchers. But Tuesday brought two fresh examples of the way the industry is reacting to those changes — examples that represent a stark departure from previous polling conventions.
— Public Policy Polling, the prolific Democratic robopollster, announced Tuesday that 20% of their interviews will now be conducted via Internet, in an effort to reach the more-than 40% of Americans without landline phones. We’ve long been critical of PPP for excluding cell-phone-only voters, and, despite the usual caveats about opt-in Internet polls (and others about mixed-mode surveys combining more than one methodology), this seems like a step in the right direction.
— The other (more significant) story comes from Glen Bolger and Trip Mullen at Alexandria, Va.-based GOP polling shop Public Opinion Strategies. In a story for Campaigns & Elections, Bolger and Mullen outline the experiments POS has been conducting with mobile surveys — that is, polls completed via mobile app, which they say “offers an interactive experience for the respondent that’s not possible over the phone or even through online research. The application allows survey researchers to harness mobile device capabilities like touch screens, built-in cameras, and GPS positioning.” (The most entertaining part of Bolger and Mullen’s piece: The photos voters send when asked to take a snapshot on their phones of something that reminded them of the two political parties!)
— While POS and other firms are starting to do lots of work online, this work is viewed more as a supplement to their increasingly-expensive, call-based phone polls. In other words, the horse-race telephone poll isn’t going anywhere, even as Americans increasingly replace landlines with cell phones (and replace cell phones with smartphones that support these kinds of apps). “I see them as different products with different objectives. I don’t see how, today, from the work we’ve done in 2013, they oughta be blunted into one survey response,” POS’s Bill McInturff said last year. “The political pollsters will be the last, last, last people on the phones.”
Web- and mobile app-based polling will always be anathema to some in the survey research community because they eschew the principle of probability sampling — the idea that every member of the sampling frame (registered voters in Virginia, for example) has an equal chance of being selected to participate. But every household doesn’t have a home phone anymore, and calling cell phones is — in some cases — prohibitively expensive. It’s clear that non-probability web and mobile research is progressing — on two tracks. Public and media polls are using opt-in Internet and mobile surveys to replace more expensive, live-caller efforts. PPP joins Rasmussen Reports and SurveyUSA in doing cell-only subsamples via the Internet, and the Associated Press and Reuters have already moved entirely online. On the campaign side, Internet and mobile polling is increasingly a major tool for ad and message testing and other supplemental research, but the basic horse-race, brushfire poll model remains the dominant mode, despite rising costs.
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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."