With cell phones excluded from surveys, are polls skewed?

Harry Reid questions polls putting him in a close race for his Senate seat, noting bias found also in a recent Pew study

Sen. Harry Reid is questioning the validity of polls showing him in a close race with Republican challenger Sharron Angle for his U.S. Senate seat in Nevada, because random phone surveys don't include calls to cell phones.

Since cell phone users aren't being polled, the results primarily reflect the views of home phone users and not the broadest audience, Reid said in a CNBC interview (see video, below), which was posted on The New York Times Web site on Friday, Oct. 22.

Cell phone users -- who tend to be a younger and more transient group, according to various surveys and cell phone service providers -- are probable supporters of his, Reid said in the interview. They largely comprise a segment of the population that Democrats like Reid have traditionally counted on for support.

A week earlier, on Oct. 13, the Pew Research Center issued a statement saying that nearly all election surveys rely on wired, or landline, phones and therefore their results could be skewed.

"Virtually all" automated polls don't include interviews with people on cell phones, Pew said. And Pew noted that National Center for Health Statistics data indicates that one quarter of all U.S. households have only a cell phone.

Reid implied in the video that his own internal polling includes cell phone users and that those survey results show he's doing OK in the race with Angle. He didn't elaborate, and his campaign could not be reached for further comment.

"I feel comfortable with where I am [in the race] and what I've done," Reid said in the CNBC interview. "We do our own polling and they are scientific polls, not like the ones that are floated around in the newspapers."

"I'm not making this up: These polls [reported in the media are] done by random dialing. They can't dial anyone with a cell phone," said Reid.

Despite wide pronouncements by Democrats that Angle has "extreme" conservative views, several polls have shown her besting Reid by a point or two.

One widely respected pollster, Rasmussen Reports, gave Angle the edge over Reid by 50% to 47% in its most recent telephone survey of 750 likely voters in Nevada, the results of which were released on Oct. 18.

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