10/09/2007 06:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Many Calls Per Minute?

Last week, the InsiderAdvantage poll released new surveys of
likely Republican primary voters
in five states all conducted in just two
nights, October 2-3, 2007. This feat prompted reader Chantal to ask some
reasonable questions:

Maybe I'm missing something, but how many phone
calls per minute do you have to make in order to get 1,339 likely Republican
caucus attendees [in Iowa]
over the course of just two nights? What kind of incidence rate are we talking

And this doesn't take into
consideration the fact that InsiderAdvantage was also polling in four other
states these evenings. Who is paying for this? Are these robopolls? Was the
call center in the North Poll?

I forwarded Chantal's question to InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt
Towery, along with a request to provide answers to our Disclosure
questions for the Iowa

Regarding the number of calls made, Towery replied on
Saturday that he does not have "the exact number on a weekend, but clearly they
are [in the] thousand[s]." He added, "we have a very high completion rate on
these because we ask only a very few questions."

Towery did not mention that his surveys typically sample
from lists of registered voters and make use of past vote history to help
select "likely voters," so that they need to screen out relatively few
contacted respondents.

How many interviewers would it require to complete 6,357
interviews with likely Republican primary voters? In the absence of a more
specific answer from Towery, we can guess, but the answer will depend on a
variety of issues involving how the poll was fielded: The exact length of the
interview, how many "unlikely" voters they terminated, how many "call backs"
they made to phone numbers yielding no answer on the first dial, whether they
called during the day or just during early evening hours and whether they used
a "predictive" auto-dialer that waits until a human being answers the phone
before connecting an interviewer (something many pollsters avoid but that can certainly
boost interviewer productivity).

Given the sort of incidence that InsiderAdvantage reported
for their recent Florida
survey and the variables mentioned above, a single interviewer might be able to complete anywhere from 5 to 15
interviews per hour. If we assume the more conservative estimate of 5 an hour, such a survey
could require roughly 1300 interviewer hours. If we assume they dialed
during evening hours only, the project would require somewhere between 100 and
150 interviewers. That's not an implausible number, especially if the
interviews were farmed out to more than one call center. And obviously, any
number of compromises in methodology (daytime interviewing, predictive dialers,
and so on) could enable completion of a project like this with far fewer

As for the question of who is paying for the interviews,
Towery had this reply:

We are, as I noted, owned by a holding company
(Internet News Agency, LLC) which is comprised of investors including the family
owners of one of the nation's largest privately owned newspaper chains, the
largest privately held real estate development fund in the Southeast, as well
as numerous other investors. We employ some of the region's top journalists
such as Tom Baxter, former national editor and chief political correspondent
for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Hastings Wyman, founder of the Southern
Political Report in D.C.; Lee Bandy, 40 year political editor for The State
newspaper in South Carolina
and the like. I myself am syndicated by Creators Syndicate, the largest
independent newspaper syndication company in the nation. We also have a
non-political research/consulting divisions with clients primarily composed of
Fortune 500-1000 publicly held companies, as well as large associations, such
as the Florida Chamber of Commerce. We started in January of 2000 and were
founded by a Democrat and a Republican. I hope this sheds some light on who we
are and how and why we are able to poll so frequently.

Readers - does this information answer your questions?

PS: Other than the answers above, I have received no response from Insider
Advantage to our Disclosure Project questions regarding their Iowa poll.