Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pollster Defends the Use of 900 Numbers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pollster Defends the Use of 900 Numbers

Article excerpt

A polling organization has defended its sampling practices after newspapers refused to run its results and an industry group attacked its survey methodology.

Pulse America, in its first attempt to organize a newspaper opinion poll, asked newspapers across the country to run a query about mandatory death penalties for convicted murderers.

Respondents were to dial Pulse America's 900 number. After the results were tabulated, Pulse America planned to present them to participating newspapers.

The poll was sent through a distribution service to the nation's 100 largest newspapers, but none elected to participate.

David Schuchat, president of Washington, D.C.-based Pulse America, said he believes that newspapers decided against running the poll for a variety of reasons.

"The newspapers that I heard back from said that they were opposed to 900 numbers other than their own," Schuchat said. Also, because "900 numbers have poor connotations because of gab and sexually oriented lines ... some papers have a policy of not running anything with a 900 number."

But another industry organization, the National Council on Public Polls, said that running call-in polls is poor practice for newspapers because the results fail to capture views of a representative sample of the population.

"A call-in poll suffers from all kinds of ills," said the organization's president, Harry O'Neill.

"Call-in polls never give a representative sample because there's a great degree of self-selection. It's people who choose to call in, and, therefore, are not representative of the public. …

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