Home > The Body Politic > TV3 News on Polling Cellphone Users – Only A Year Late

TV3 News on Polling Cellphone Users – Only A Year Late




Over a year ago, in March 2013, I raised the issue of cellphone users  not being polled  by the major polling companies, with the exception of Roy Morgan. To polling companies such as Reid Research, UMR, Ipsos, Colmar Brunton, Digipoll, etc, people who rely solely on cellphones are “invisible” when it comes to surveying.

As I wrote on 8 March last year,

“If the numbers of households without a landline are significant (+/- 10%), then polling companies will either have to adjust their polling techniques – or be rendered useless. Without factoring in cellphone-only households, polling companies risk becoming an expensive ‘parlour game’ with little value.”

The importance of this fact was highlighted in last year’s Census, which reported on 3 December 2013 that  14.5% of households did not have access to a landline,

Access to a landline telephone decreased. In 2013, 85.5 percent of households had access to a landline telephone at home, down from 91.6 percent in 2006.”

I then wrote on 12 December,

“Low income families may not necessarily have credit on their cellphones – but that does not prevent polling companies from phoning in, to cellphone owners. As I blogged on 1 September, when Roy Morgan phoned me on my cellphone (see:  Mr Morgan phoned).

The up-shot of this census result is twofold;

  1. As the only pollster to call respondants’ cellphones, Roy Morgan is the most credible polling company and the one to watch.

  2. Expect other polling companies to follow suit and call respondants via their cellphones – or risk being ignored and becoming irrelevant.”

It was therefore amusing to see this TV3 “news” story on 6 July



Cellphones make political polling tricky - tv3 - emma jolliff


As the story stated;

The rise of the mobile phone is casting a shadow over the reliability of traditional telephone polling…


In fact, he says it is not just young people who are rejecting landlines. The latest census data shows 86 percent of households have a landline, down from 92 percent in 2006.

That means 14 percent of households don’t have a landline and because there is no directory of mobile phone numbers those people are essentially off the grid to pollsters.

Only sixteen months since I raised the issue.

And only eight months since I pointed out that the increasing sole-reliance on cellphones in many households made land-line-calling, as a sole means of contacting respondents, somewhat dubious.

Interestingly, TV3 journo, Emma Jolliff – who penned the story – wrote,

“…because there is no directory of mobile phone numbers those people are essentially off the grid to pollsters.”

Which is total rubbish. Any journo writing such crap has obviously failed to do his/her homework.  A “directory of mobile numbers” is not required. I evidence that with my own situation when Roy Morgan phoned me on 31 August 2013on my cellphone.

In fact, Roy Morgan is the only polling company to conduct its surveys by calling respondents on their cellphones;

“Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone, with a NZ wide cross-section of 817 electors from June 16-29, 2014. Of all electors surveyed 5.5% (up 0.5%) didn’t name a party.”

So unless Roy Morgan is telling lies on it’s website, and I had a hallucinatory moment in August last year, Ms Jolliff doesn’t know what she is talking about. Not surprising for the Media in this country whose work has become more sloppy, superficial, and sensationalist with each passing year.

Bloggers up and down this country have been well aware of the limitations of polling companies which preclude contacting respondents by cellphone. It has been a fairly well-discussed issue for well over a year.

For TV3 to now run a “news” story on this issue shows how dangerously out of touch the mainstream media is in New Zealand.

I wonder when we’ll hear from a media company that David Cunliffe was elected Leader of the Labour Party?

Maybe “news” doesn’t necessarily have to be “new” after all?

As long as it sells advertising.




Stats NZ: Release Calendar

Stats NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights –  Phone and Internet access

TV3: Cellphones make political polling tricky

Roy Morgan: National (48%) down but still holds clear election winning lead over Labour/ Greens (40%)

Previous related blogposts

Dodgy polls, dodgy dealings, and a spot of fear-mongering

Mr Morgan phoned

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)




david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 July 2014.



= fs =

  1. 13 July 2014 at 3:27 pm

    LOLs @ Emma Jolliff’s ignorance.

    When is a poll not a poll? When you leave out large swathes of the statistical population.

    Why would you need to know the people that own the phone line in question? Verification that they’re an actual person? Perhaps it’s because you can then verify that somebody is over the age of 18? All you need to do is find out if they’re registered with the electoral roll…

    Worried about the person at the other end not being who they say they are (i.e. they’re imitating somebody else)? You’ve got the exact same problem with a landline, don’t you?

    Personally, the most reliable polling of private citizens, is door to door, or in public. Roy Morgan obviously know something that the rest don’t. Personally, I feel that the pollsters skew the statistics. That’s just my own theory anyway. Either that, or the people they’re polling aren’t taking much notice when big events happen.

    Seems John Key can keep being the politician he is, and is seemingly impervious.

    Meanwhile, the media like to point out that “it’s been a bad week for Cunliffe”. The last outburst was because he said something about family violence that was taken out of context then bleated about ad nauseum for the next few days. I guess the public like the political gamesmanship that goes on, with the whole Epsom charade opening us up to more manipulation.

    I think that if the mainstream media (arrogantly clueless as they are) like to antagonize the populace like this. If it keeps up, I’m going to piss everybody off on polling day by voting for the conservative party. Not out of pity for them. Out of spite for all the other parties, and the media that jump the bandwagon. Every time. If I lived in West Harbour, they’d get both votes. Christine Rankin has to be a fighting chance against Bennett…. No? Not if she pulls off the BS judicial recount like last time, anyway.

  2. Deb Kean
    13 July 2014 at 5:17 pm

    When I worked at the dreaded call centre, we were not allowed to call mobile phones, except for the beer selling campaign…

  3. Deb Kean
    14 July 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Oh yes, beer and circuses..

  4. Priss
    15 July 2014 at 7:28 am

    Nice to see the msm catching up Frank. Not surprised though, as you’re probably finding all sorts of useful information for them. They could lerarn a few things from bloggers like you.

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