The cellphone may end up defining the 2012 election the same way TV defined John F. Kennedy’s victory in 1960. The little device most Americans won’t go anywhere without has not only changed the way politics happens, but has also become the perfect symbol of the politics of the right. Whether the cellphone ends up representing inclusiveness and diversity or a vacuous bitterness will tell us a lot about where America is headed.
The first and most profound way cellphones are changing American politics is through polling.
“We think the polls this year seriously underestimate the Obama vote,” legendary pollster Stan Greenberg said in a video posted on The Carville-Greenberg Report Monday.
“A majority of Hispanics are cellphone-only; 4 out of 10 African-Americans are cellphone-only. Young people, of course, are mostly cellphone only,” Greenberg explained. This greatly complicates polling since only live pollsters call cellphones.
“You know, if you’re reached on a cellphone, you’re 11 points more likely to be voting for President Obama,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg isn’t the only one who has observed the president’s mobile advantage. The New York Times’ poll guru Nate Silver has noted the same phenomenon and suggests that polls that include cellphones tend to be much higher quality.
A second way cellphones are changing the political landscape is through donation by text.
President Obama’s campaign was the first ever to accept donations by text. Governor Romney’s campaign joined him shortly thereafter. Though carriers capped the amount of donations an individual could give through this method, it proved to be highly effective for the president.
Early estimates suggest that Obama outraised Romney by a 500-to-1 ratio via text message. This helped the president catch up with the Republicans on fundraising and presents a unique opportunity.
Could political commercials pay for themselves? By including the easy text-to-donate option at the end of many commercials, the president’s campaign may have created a new model that will definitely benefit campaigns targeting voters with cellphones, which will, before long, be nearly all voters.