With Fewer Americans Participating In Phone Surveys, Are Ratings Less Reliable?
May 31, 2012 at 8:09 AM (PT)
A recent survey found more and more Americans are opting out of phone surveys, or simply using caller ID to avoid the call. Only 9% of the population now responds to calls asking for their opinions on subjects from politics to shopping.
The big question for radio is: How will this trend affect the companies that generate broadcast ratings?
THE MIAMI HERALD reports the nonprofit PEW RESEARCH CENTER "decided to turn the spotlight on the reliability of its own research. What it found was alarming: Fewer than one in 10 Americans contacted for a typical PEW survey bothers to respond. That’s down from a response rate of 36% just 15 years ago."
The report notes that response rates to telephone surveys -- not just PEW -- have been sliding even faster as more Americans use their cell phones as their primary contact number.
"Survey outfits' initial response to the cord-cutting trend in the early 2000s was to ignore it," observes THE HERALD. "But the response rates of even those who still have landlines have also dropped off of late. And besides, it soon became clear that calling only landlines created serious problems with their data. Landline surveys, for example, reach more Republicans than Democrats. Given that polls are often judged on their resemblance to actual election results, such findings gave organizations plenty of incentive to bring cellphones into the mix, despite the added hassle and expense. The best pollsters now carefully weight their calls between landline and mobile phones to match their prevalence in the population as a whole."
Arbitron Has Felt This Problem
In MARCH (NET NEWS 3/7), ARBITRON boasted that cell phone-only (CPS) household representation increased from 17.5% to 20% in FALL 2011. The company stressed they were making a concerted effort to reach no-phone households and other non-landline households this WINTER so the percentage of CPS and other no or non-landline households increase up 22% in the SPRING.
That was largely in response to a FEBRUARY problem (NET NEWS 2/1), when the MRC pulled accreditation from ARBITRON's PPM service in five markets, citing problems with response rates. An ARBITRON spokesperson told ALL ACCESS at that time, "The MRC was primarily concerned about the decline in SPI (response rates) throughout 2011 in these markets. As a result, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of our organization, talent and processes in order to further improve our performance in terms of panel recruitment and panel retention. We are also continuing the key programs of our previously announced continuous improvement efforts: Address-Based Sampling, Targeted In-Person Recruitment and Geo-Zones."
ALL ACCESS has requested a comment from ARBITRON on this article.