Our chapter on public opinion discusses the challenges of taking surveys. One enormous problem in recent years has been the growing refusal to respond to phone surveys.
After stabilizing briefly, response rates to telephone public opinion polls conducted by Pew Research Center have resumed their decline.
In 2017 and 2018, typical telephone survey response rates fell to 7% and 6%, respectively, according to the Center’s latest data. Response rates had previously held steadyaround 9% for several years.
While the Center’s telephone survey protocol is somewhat different from those used by other organizations, conversations with contractors and other pollsters confirm that the pattern reported here is being experienced more generally in the industry.
Among the factors depressing participation in telephone polling may be the recent surge in automated telemarketing calls, particularly to cellphones. The volume of robocalls has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion per month. Since public opinion polls typically appear as an unknown or unfamiliar number, they are easily mistaken for telemarketing appeals.