POLITICS
12/18/2013 05:11 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: More Americans Than Ever Can't Be Reached By Landline

Tom Morrison via Getty Images

The cell-only population continues to grow, though a little more slowly than in previous years. Americans' perceptions of economic news show no improvement. And if you're waiting breathlessly on another batch of 2016 results, you should maybe stop doing that. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, December 18, 2013.

CELL ONLY POPULATION TICKS UP AGAIN -- Every six months, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updates its ongoing tracking of telephone usage. Their latest release this Wednesday shows that in the first half of 2013 38.0 percent of U.S. adults lived in a household that has only mobile telephone service and no landline. Their tracking shows that more than half of adults under age 35 and nearly two thirds (65.6 percent) of those ages 25 to 29 are cell-phone only. The cell-phone only category also includes 49.9 percent of Hispanic or Latino adults, 61.5 percent of those who rent their homes and 54.7 percent of those living below the Census Bureau's poverty threshold. [CDC]

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...but cell-only growth may be slowing - CDC: "The percentage of households that are wireless-only has been steadily increasing. However, the 1.2- percentage-point increase from the second 6 months of 2012 through the first 6 months of 2013 is the smallest 6-month increase observed over the past 6 years. The percentage of adults and children living in wireless-only households has also been increasing steadily (Figure 1), although the increase for children was not statistically significant from the second 6 months of 2012 through the first 6 months of 2013." [ibid]

How pollsters have adjusted and why it matters - Steve Shepard: "Pollsters, in particular, have grappled with Americans' abandonment of cell phones for years. Calling cell phones is more expensive than dialing landlines because the phone number must be dialed manually, per federal law. That makes automated calls to cell phones illegal, and it means that even those live-caller polls that use a computer dialer to save time can't reach cells, either. Because different demographic groups are replacing their landline phones at different rates, calling too few cell phones carries significant risks...Some pollsters have made the choice to call more cell phones. On the public side, half of Gallup's interviews are conducted by cell phone, and roughly half of respondents in the Pew Research Center's latest poll were contacted by cell phone, too...There is a lack of consensus on a path forward for political polling, but, if current trends continue, roughly half of adults will be unreachable by landline phone by 2016." [National Journal]

Why does CDC track mobile phone usage? - The CDC has tracked questions about telephone service usage on the in-person, high response rate National Health Information Survey (NHIS) since 2003 because the agency also monitors health behaviors via telephone surveys as part of their massive, 50-state Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys.

'NO IMPROVEMENT' IN VIEWS OF ECONOMIC NEWS - Pew Research: "Six-in-ten (60%) are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy. Far more say they are hearing mostly bad news about the economy (31%) than mostly good news (7%). These views have not changed much over the past two years, although the percentage hearing mostly bad news is up five points since August...The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 12-15 among 1,000 adults, finds that perceptions of recent job news remain more negative than positive. Currently, 40% are hearing mostly bad news about jobs, while just 14% are hearing mostly good news; 41% say the news is mixed. These views also have changed little over the past year." [Pew Research]

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WIDE SUPPORT FOR MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE - HuffPollster: "Most Americans think the government should take action to address the wealth gap, and even more believe the minimum wage should be raised, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday….Presented with arguments for and against the minimum wage -- that it would help low-income workers get by, but that it could lead some businesses to cut jobs -- 66 percent supported raising it from the current $7.25, while 31 percent opposed doing so….The idea has historically been even more popular. In seven polls taken since 1998, Pew Research has found support for an increase to $9 ranging from a low of 71 percent in February of this year to 87 percent in 2001. Gallup, which has asked the question since 1995, found support as high as 83 percent in both 1996 and 2005." [HuffPost, ABC News, Washington Post]

AMERICANS AGAINST BOTH LEGALIZING HARD DRUGS AND JAILING THOSE WHO USE THEM - Emily Swanson: "Few Americans favor legalizing drugs like cocaine and heroin, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But a majority of Americans also think first-time offenders caught with small amounts of those drugs should not face prison time. According to the new poll, only 9 percent of Americans believe using heroin should be made legal, 11 percent think the use of cocaine should be legal and 9 percent think using crack should be legal….At the same time, though, few respondents to the latest poll said that they think jail time is an appropriate sentence for first-time drug offenders. For example, 13 percent said that heroin possession by a first-time offender should be punished by a fine or no punishment at all, while another 40 percent favored probation or court-ordered treatment, but no prison time." [HuffPost]

IOWA POLL REVEALS 'NOT MUCH' - Stu Rothenberg on the new Des Moines Register Iowa poll featured in Monday's HuffPollster: "Most of these numbers are meaningless, of course. In both 2008 and 2012, GOP candidates who weren’t even on the radar early ended up making a late rush and winning the caucuses. Huckabee was a non-factor throughout much of 2007, and it wasn’t until the last quarter of that year that he surged to become the alternative to Romney, especially for evangelicals. Santorum followed a similar track in 2012. He was regarded as largely irrelevant until the final few weeks before the caucuses, when conservatives rallied around him as the alternative to Romney. If 2008 and 2012 are any guide, most Iowa Republicans are a long way from deciding who they will support in the 2016 causes, so the new survey is little more than a baseline. Baselines are fine, but they only tell you where you are, not where you are going." [Roll Call]

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WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Barack Obama's ratings for handling foreign policy top his ratings for domestic issues. [AP, toplines]

-A record number (72 percent) say big government is a bigger problem than big business or big labor. [Gallup]

-79 percent of Americans are satisfied with their own lives, while just 23 percent are satisfied with the way things are going in the country. [Gallup]

-A third of Americans neither approve nor disapprove of the Congressional budget deal, the rest are divided. [YouGov]

-65 percent of Americans say online poker should be allowed. [Reason]

-65 percent of Americans say no to voice cell calls on airplanes. [Rasmussen Reports]

-Quinnipiac finds Democrat Bruce Braley leading narrowly over several GOP rivals in the 2014 Iowa Senate race. [Quinnipiac]

-Another Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania finds Gov. Tom Corbett's (R) reelection efforts in trouble. [Quinnipiac]

-The Boston Marathon bombing is the story that sports fans considered most memorable in 2013. [Marist]

-Another national poll finds Americans with negative attitudes toward "Congress, the president, and [the] health of the nation." [FDU Public Mind]

-The Americans most down on Washington politicians "are lining up squarely behind GOP candidates for Congress." [WaPost]

-David Hill (R) argues that Fed "tapering" will hurt Democrats. [The Hill]

-Mark Mellman (D) recounts what he got right and wrong in 2013. [The Hill]

-Andrew Gelman speculates about why two reputable studies came to opposite conclusions about whether having daughters makes leads people to be more conservative or more liberal. [WaPost's Monkey Cage]

-The Census launches Census Explorer, a new interactive visualization project tied to the latest American Community Survey data. [Social Explorer, Census Explorer]

-Data scientist surpasses statistician on Google Trends. [Flowing Data]

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