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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Polling Chasm Followup

After my piece earlier this week wondering how accurate polls (presidential preference of otherwise) can be if so many of us don't have landlines, and we can easily ignore calls from numbers we and our smartphones don't recognize, Dennis Hartin e-mailed:

Read your post with interest, and have wondered the same thing, thanks to a feature of our landline phone. Our phone recognizes robo-calls, or calls that are coming from a call center, and only rings once on such calls. As you might expect, we only pick up after the second ring. How many other people have this feature, and how do the pollers factor that in?
I hadn't heard of this, so I asked Dennis for more information:
The service we use is not from our landline carrier, but a web site with the euphonious name of You register your phone number with them, and it screens your calls. If its program sees an incoming call that's a telemarketer or robocall, it answers the call for you -- hence you hear only one ring.
I checked the site, and found the service is not available for traditional landlines -- only for VoIP, which is what you probably have if you get your phone service from a cable company like Charter or something like AT&T U-Verse. In that case, it's free. If you want it for your smartphone, it $5/month.

I'm happy with the call-blocking technology already built into my iPhone, and we don't have a landline, so I wouldn't use NoMoRobo and can't speak to its efficacy, but I pass along the information in case you're interested. Neither I nor Dennis has any financial interest in the company (in fact, I have no idea how they make money on the landline-blocking service).

To get back to the point of my original piece, everyone who uses services like this would also be among the un-poll-able public, creating yet another demographic of Americans whose opinions are never tallied.

On a related subject, Timothy Noah has a terrific piece in Slate about the death of the phone call:
Calling somebody on the phone used to be a perfectly ordinary thing to do. You called people you knew well, not so well, or not at all, and never gave it a second thought. But after the Great Texting Shift of 2007, a phone call became a claim of intimacy. Today if I want to phone someone just to chat, I first have to consider whether the call will be viewed as intrusive. My method is to ask myself, “Have I ever seen this person in the nude?” The sighting doesn’t have to be (indeed, seldom is) recent. Nor is it necessary that I remember it. I need only deduce that, sometime or other, I must have seen this person naked. That clears phone calls to a wife or girlfriend, to children, to parents, to siblings, to old flames, to former roommates from college, and very few others.

I make exceptions to the naked rule now and then, but always with trepidation, because when a friend you’ve never seen naked sees your name pop up on his smartphone he’s liable to think you lack boundaries. If you aren’t on this never-naked person’s contacts list, forget about connecting at all. Nobody answers a cellphone that blinks an unfamiliar phone number, and nobody has the patience to listen to voice mail. (The final voice mail that anybody actually heard was recorded sometime around 2009.)
Read Noah's full piece here.