Last week I made mention of how in the old days folks would gather around a storefront window to watch news unfold. And OK, whether this really happened or is just something that happened in the movies is debatable. The point is that 2008 could be the first election where news of the election is carried on mobile phones.
This is in part because the mobile handsets are finally starting to be ready for primetime, but also because of all the constant news feeds and other information that can be streamed to a phone. Given the capabilities of the mobile Web you can pretty much be anywhere – anywhere with a signal that is – and get information directly to your handset. And while this will certainly be a major step forward in how the election is covered and followed by average users, the more interesting aspect is whether the mobile phone played a role in the election.
Polls are always a dicey thing, and “Dewey defeats Truman” is the key moment in ties where the polls got it wrong. And of course there was the surreal polling that took place in Florida in 2000, as well as Ohio in 2004. But generally the truth is that the pre-election polls cast a good light on how Election Day turns out.
So why could 2008 be different? Well, for one thing many pollsters haven’t factored the mobile phone into their research. There are countless factors to consider, and this isn’t to say that blue states could really be red because pollsters couldn’t reach people. Talk to the experts and they’ll say that many urban residents (who might lean blue) never had a landline and were thus unreachable in previous polls in the first place, which could cancel the so-called red leaning voters that ditched a landline for a mobile phone.
While the mobile phone might not end up being responsible for any November surprise, one thing is for sure. As with television in the 1950s, mobile handsets will certainly allow people to receive the information about the election, including results in a way previously not possible.