The Effect of Cellphones: Revisted

I did some further research, after posting a previous article on cellphones, and it appears that there is a legal caveat to automatically dialing cellphones. This caveat comes in the form of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 which in section (b)(1)(A)(iii) states that it is unlawful to make a call using an autodialer or prerecorded voice to any telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service. Sounds hopeless, but in (b)(2)(C) an exemption is detailed:

(C) may, by rule or order, exempt from the requirements of paragraph (1)(A)(iii) of this subsection calls to a telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service that are not charged to the called party, subject to such conditions as the Commission may prescribe as necessary in the interest of the privacy rights this section is intended to protect;

This exemption clearly shows that it is not illegal to include cellphones in a random sample so long as the service provider of the randomized number is known. A quick google search reveals that such a thing is possible. ReverseGenie runs a service that allows a user to enter a phone number, and returns the service provider along with a boat load of other information; the service is $40 a year and allows for an unlimited number lookups. Using this service, or a similar technology would clearly allow a pollster to sift out the numbers they cannot legally dial from a randomized set. Whether pollsters do this once they have a randomized set is unknown (SurveyUSA uses a phone number provider that does include cellphones), but if they take the time to ensure they are not autodialing a hospital (which is illegal and must be done) they likely also have the ability to check the service provider.

I called Rasmussen Reports and asked: "Are cell phones included in your random samples?" The response: "No."

I next called Quinnipiac University and asked the same question. Their response: "The numbers are randomly generated and through that course cell phones are occasionally called. When this happens, the respondent's number is removed from the pool of available numbers." This was a very curious response because Quinnipiac University does not use an autodialer and could therefore legally talk to the respondent, but ultimately they seek to only include landlines in their polling samples.

I'm still in the process of contacting other pollsters to determine whether cell phones are included in their samples.

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5 Response(s) to The Effect of Cellphones: Revisted

9/7/2008 3:07:49 AM CT

Thank you! I have been wondering about this very issue. I appreciate the work that you have put into the subject.
Mr Apricot
9/7/2008 1:23:46 PM CT

Are cell phone calls from god regulated?
9/9/2008 10:18:17 PM CT

Get out and vote on nov4th!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9/14/2008 4:43:16 AM CT

given that increasingly more and more people are giving up landlines....
doesn't this render all these polls meaningless?

what scientific basis do they have?
9/16/2008 3:53:09 PM CT

Exactly!! They are especially meaningless because the majority of people 30 and under don't even HAVE a landline. I see this with my own kids, nephews, colleagues, etc. So if a poll is calling only landlines, they are NOT polling the thousands of young people who are so excited about Obama.

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