No Answer is the Wrong Answer

“I don’t answer the phone unless I know who’s calling.”  I heard that multiple times while being overseas and using Skype to make calls.  Given that “my” number didn’t appear when I called, people didn’t answer.  While annoying; it wasn’t insurmountable.  I texted people prior calling so that they’d answer.  While inconvenient, I was able to get my work done.  Once that they knew it was me, they were willing to answer their phones.  This however, isn’t always the case.

Political professionals who need to survey, fund raise or persuade voters need to recognize this new reality.  The landline is an endangered species and people are hesitant to answer their cellphones if they don’t recognize the number.

The chart below clearly shows that that the number of people with wireless only continues to increase.  And as one would except, younger people are cutting the “cord” at a more rapid pace.

G&B’s research, conducted in May, confirms if people don’t recognize the phone number, they won’t answer their phones.  Only 16% of the 14-64 population have landlines and will answer all calls.  Thus, 84% will either ignore a call, or live in cellphone-only households. A massive majority will ignore a call if the caller ID isn’t available or they don’t know the number.

Given that over 80% of people, whether will landline or cell, won’t answer calls if they don’t recognize the number, we’ve been working for years on different ways to reach them.  It is reasonable to assume that with time the trend will continue and more people will ignore calls if they don’t recognize number.  This desire to limit who has access to us via our phones is likely to result in people becoming more restrictive regarding text messages.  Calls and text messages are intrusions.  How to reach people when they don’t want to be reached will become increasingly challenging.  It’s not a new problem – it’s just one that will require more and more creativity by those looking to market, raise funds or conduct market research.  The standard “telephone sample” is currently representative of no one.

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