February 7, 2011

To what degree does my having only a cell phone restrict my availability for surveys?

Q. When I was living in Oregon and had a landline telephone with a listed number, I occasionally received various requests to participate in surveys. I now live in Connecticut and have only a cell phone (with no directory listing that I know of) and have never received a survey inquiry. To what degree does my having only a cell phone restrict my availability for surveys? And does living in a state with greater population density also mean that I would less often be the subject of survey requests?

Having a cell phone rather than a landline does make it less likely that you will receive an interview request by phone. There are a couple of reasons for this. Although the Pew Research Center now routinely includes cell phone numbers in our samples, many survey organizations still do not do so. In addition, most surveys that include cell phones conduct more landline than cell phone interviews. Of course, if you have both a landline and a cell phone, you will be more likely than someone with only one device or the other to receive a survey request. We take that fact into account when we apply statistical weighting to our data before tabulating the results.

The fact that you live in a densely populated place does not, by itself, make your likelihood of inclusion in a survey any smaller. We draw our samples of telephone numbers in proportion to the population in a given area, so everyone should have roughly the same opportunity to be contacted (though, as noted, with the caveat that the type of phone or phones you have will affect your probability of being contacted).

Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center