What does the presumptive Democratic nominee for President and the nation's most successful Alternative station in the country have in common?
They are both getting screwed by the companies that provide ratings to measure their relative competitive positions. In Obama's case, it's all the pollsters that dutifully conduct survey after survey, providing the American public and the media with a sense of who's winning the Presidential race. In KROQ's case (and for every other Alternative and youth-based station in the country), it's the Arbitron diary system that attempts to provide a pecking order of who's listening the most.
For both Obama's poll numbers and Alternative radio, the numbers are flawed, and for the same reason: cell-phone only homes who cannot be measured by conventional polling (or the Arbitron diary system). Now, two Salon reporters, Jonathan Brown and Paul Maslin, think that Obama may be getting shortchanged by literally millions of voters who are more likely to be young adults and cell phone only.
Brown and Maslin (who was Howard Dean's pollster in '04) point out that political surveyors have "dismissed the cell phone-only population with a troika of 'yes, buts.' Yes, they're undercounted, but 1) they don't vote anyway; 2) their numbers are still small; and 3) we can find acceptable substitutes in the land-line population. And to be honest, there is a fourth still more powerful rationale that remains unstated: 'Yes, they're undercounted, but it's too damn difficult and expensive to reach them."'"
At least in radio, we have PPM and some representation for CPO listeners. In the political arena, both Brown and Maslin contend that many pollsters may be embarrassed when the votes are tallied in November.