Check out our new PolitIQs: Voter Behavior Research Newsletter: The Costs of Reaching Cell Phone Voters: Modern Campaigning Must

Dear Friend, 

Last week we wrote about an internal study comparing the list quality and list penetration of cell phones vs. land lines. Our results eliminated the “it’s impossible to find them or reach them” excuse for omitting cell phones from a field/phone program. The one remaining objection is cost. We calculated cost comparisons from the results of a range of calling programs in 2013 and early 2014. The programs included statewide ballot measures, local ballot measures, a congressional special election and local candidate elections in six different states.
We found that on average, it takes about 1.51 times the number of calling hours to reach the same number of cell phones as land lines to the same universe. Two reasons account for this: current laws prevent the calling of cell phone lists with automated, predictive dialers—they must be dialed one at a time. And, the script introductions for cell phone callers are slightly different and in many cases a bit longer. Many voters are still unaccustomed to getting political calls on their mobile phones, so we need to go to extra lengths to engage them.
What are the overall net costs to expanding the phone program to dial cell numbers? It depends on the percentage of the voter file with a cell only number. The chart below indicates the overall cost increase in a phone program based on the percentage of cell phones.

Cell Phone % of Overall Phone UniverseIncrease in the Phone Program Costs Over Land Line Only Program
10% 5%
15% 8%
20% 10%
25% 13%
30% 15%
35% 18%
40% 20%
45% 23%
50% 26%
55% 28%
60% 31%
65% 33%
70% 36%

Some campaign planners might look at the chart and conclude they can't afford to call cell phone voters. We submit that you cannot afford NOT to call them in a midterm election. 

Again, we demonstrate the modest additional costs of dialing cell phone voters. Let’s assume a hefty RAE audience for the fall of 2014 such that half the targets are cell phone voters. The chart below shows you the total cost increases. We’ve used a typical phone budget as a portion of different types of campaigns. The chart confirms that the additional overall costs of connecting by phone with RAE voters is smaller than the typical rounding error in many campaign budgets.  

Typical CampaignOverall BudgetOriginal Phone BudgetNet Cost IncreaseIncrease as % of Overall Budget
City Council $50,000  $15,000 $3,900 7.80%
State House $100,000  $20,000 $5,200 5.20%
Small City Mayor $250,000 $40,000 $10,400 4.16%
Medium City Major  $1,000,000 $50,000 $13,000 1.30%
Big City Mayor  $2,000,000 $100,000 $26,000 1.30%
US House Race  $3,000,000 $150,000 $ 39,000 1.30%

And as always, we invite you to join our voter research conversation on Twitter @ChismStrat.


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