With debate season now officially underway, many candidates and groups are looking to see how the on-stage narratives impact them — and the candidates are likely to do the same.
Using traditional phone-only polling, it's hard to field a cost-effective poll to dip your toe in the water and see how the debate issues or performance are affecting the environment. That's why many are looking into alternative polling approaches to gather this data and stay within budget.
If you desire to stick with a problematic approach to polling, utilizing peer-to-peer text messaging is one option. Voter file vendors have improved their cellphone match rates, so reaching a large swath of voters near instantly is possible.
This can be done by back-and-forth conversation. But note that this has a large drop-off rate between each question as voters quit responding. In other cases, pollsters provide a unique link to the voter, driving them to an online survey. Each has their application, but if you want more than four-six questions answered, we recommend using the SMS-to-link approach.
Like live and IVR phone calls, SMS sample collection has its biases. They’re different than phones, so mixed together the two work well.
Now, it’s imperative to pay close attention to what type of voters are responding to the text messages so the sample of the SMS survey remains balanced. This process is no different than phone polling.
Another benefit of using P2P text messages for quick polls is the cost compared to live phone calls. Moreover, as competition increases in the space, we expect the price to drop even more during this cycle.
Another approach to gathering quick snapshot polls is through online panels. There are hundreds of these providers who have recruited pre-screened panelists to participate in surveys.
Still, fraud is a known problem with this approach, so take the proper precautions to properly screen and vet panel participants for your survey. Providers like Survey Monkey allow for quick access to panelists, but keep in mind that the scale of a single provider won’t be enough to complete your survey in a timely manner — especially if you're screening down to likely voters or likely primary voters.
Taking the online panel approach also has a downside: you don't have the voter record of the person responding. Some vendors have this on a small number of their panelist, but it's usually only for about 100 completes per 1 million in population.
So as you watch the debates or read about them online afterward, keep your phone nearby. Maybe some pollster will text you to get your hot take.
Brent Buchanan is a CEO and Founder at Cygnal, a national public opinion, predictive analytics, and market research firm.