Election Polling May Leave Out Young and Poor Voters

Harrisonburg, VA – Election polling may not be accurate because young people and poor voters may be left out of telephone surveys, according to Bob Roberts, professor of political science at James Madison University in Virginia.

Many young people do not have landline phones, so they are not reachable by survey groups that use lists of home landline phone numbers, Roberts said.

"The pollsters say they deal with it. They keep calling landlines until they get to that demographic, those young voters," Roberts said.

Roberts cited a 2006 study by the Pew Research Center that found that there are few voting differences between cell phone and landline users. That study is only one side of the ongoing debate, Roberts said.

In addition to young voters, poor voters without landline phones or cell phones are also underrepresented in election surveys taken by telephone, Roberts said.

In Virginia, 245,000 new voters have registered since January 2008. Many of those voters are from poor areas of the state, according to Roberts.

Roberts said he thinks the presidential race in Virginia will be extremely tight, and there could be extensive recounts, as in Florida in 2000.

"If you get 245,000 new voters.. and they all actually show up to vote, and then you have large numbers of absentee ballots that are being filed by college students or young people... then you've got problems," he said.