The Tyranny of Opinion Polls


In many western democracies, the corporate media has become extremely sophisticated at using opinion polls to manipulate both public sentiment and election results. These polls are made out as a scientifically valid representation of voter sentiment. Pollsters choose a small sample (between 500 and 10,000) of phone numbers at random, ring them and question the people who answer about their political views and/or candidates they support. The results are tabulated and paraded by the media as representing the population at large.

Unbeknownst to the public, these voter surveys are neither scientific nor representative of the public at large. Even more sinister is the secondary purpose they serve in discrediting anti-corporate, so-called “extremist” candidates and parties. Because all opinion polls exclude young, low income and minority voters, conservative candidates and parties always achieve more favorable poll results than they actually enjoy.

The Prevalence of Cellphone-only Homes

Opinion polls become less and less reliable as more and more young and low income people opt for cellphone- only households. The Center for Disease Control estimate that landline-free homes are increasing between 3-5% a year.

The most recent CDC study (2013) shows that 39.4% of all US households have no land line. Young people and low income and minority families the most likely to live in cellphone only homes:

  • 65.6% of adults aged 25-29 live in homes with no land line.
  • 59.9% of adults aged 30-34 live in homes with no landline
  • Hispanic adults (50.5%) are more likely than non-Hispanic adults (32.9%) to live in cellphone only homes.
  • 59.7% of adults renting their home have no land line, more than twice the rate (25.4%) for home owners.
  • 54.7% of adults living below the poverty line have no line line.

Excluded from Opinion Polls

A four-year-old Pew Research Center study found that Democrats ranked 7% lower in public opinion polls that excluded cellphones. With the estimated 20% increase in cellphone-only households in the last four years, that percentage will have grown proportionately.

Gallup, to their credit, now includes some cellphones in their political polling. Even so, cellphone polling introduces a variety of logistical problems affecting its validity. There are no standard directories of cellphone numbers, and many states ban randomized computer generation off cellphone numbers. Cellphone users (especially those whose plans bill them for receiving cellphone calls) are also far more likely to reject a call from an unknown phone number.

Opinion Polls in New Zealand

The percentage of cellphone-only households (estimated at 12-14%) is still quite a bit lower in New Zealand than the US. Even so, Kiwi pundits are beginning to question the validity of voter surveys that exclude specific demographic groups by refusing to ring cellphones.

Why, I wonder, is it still a total non-issue in the US, where an estimated 40% of households are routinely excluded from opinion polls?

photo credit: JR_Paris via photopin cc

9 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Opinion Polls

  1. In the days when I had a landline, I tried to respond to pollsters. I quickly realized that I wasn’t doing them any favors — I can only answer dichotomous forced-choice questions with “well, I can only say it depends on a number of contextual factors. Without further information, I have no response.”


  2. Well, this got Tubularsock thinking …….. Tubularsock feels that we should let cell phones vote for people. It is obvious to Tubularsock that from past elections that people are rather dumb in their voting choices therefore a SMART Phone should do better. Just say’en.


  3. Pingback: Opinion Polls as Disinformation | The Most Revolutionary Act

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