How to Reach Low-Propensity Voters for Polling

With iOS 13, Apple gave iPhone users the ability to send all unknown numbers instantly to voicemail. Many Android devices have this same option. Add this to all the people who ignore numbers they don’t recognize, and non-response bias continues to soar.

For pollsters who rely 100% on telephone calls to field their surveys, this is a significant problem. But it’s not a new one.

For years, low-propensity voters (those least likely to turn out) have also had a lower propensity to answer surveys. Some survey research firms implement probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) sampling to mitigate for this risk. This approach also comes with a downside in that the pollster is essentially guessing what percentage of the electorate will be composed by low-propensity voters.

That’s why Cygnal made the shift in late-2018 to invite voters to participate in its surveys through communication modes beyond just phone calls. This is only possible because we field all our surveys in-house; most call centers aren’t equipped to handle the complexity of true multi-mode fielding as it needs to be done to ensure representativeness and accuracy.

Using our proprietary, survey-centric peer-to-peer text messaging platform, we are able to provide targeted voter segments with  personal, secure invitations to complete our survey on their browser. Keep in mind, this isn’t a mass effort, because our response metrics guide who we invite to participate via SMS and when.

Email is another tool we employ to reach low-propensity voters. While this communication channel tends to skew a bit more educated, it reaches college-educated low-propensity voters well.

However, what we find most effective is essentially bombarding low-propensity voters with several communication methods combined with a social-pressure call-to-action to complete the survey. Simply calling a voter on the phone repeatedly doesn’t accomplish this goal.

In an age where we are all inundated with notifications, emails, texts, and calls, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Same goes with survey participation, especially for low-propensity voters who are less likely to be paying attention to politics in the first place.