The political polling industry is in crisis. Our traditional approach has led to higher prices and unreliable results over the past several cycles. This is largely due to outdated data collection methods that are becoming less effective every day. Traditional telephone interview methods have become increasingly expensive because of declining response rates, particularly for underrepresented populations like young people and people of color. While analytics firms and pollsters have worked to adjust, this is an acute problem for campaigns who have poor information on how or where to allocate resources and make decisions.
However, Survey 160 has identified a solution to this problem: text messaging, also known as SMS. Live interviewer text message surveys can reach voters who can’t or won’t pick up a call from an unknown number. And by allowing interviewers to conduct multiple interviews simultaneously, it increases efficiency and cuts costs relative to traditional telephone interviewing. Moreover, with nearly 95% adoption in the United States, especially among key hard-to-poll audiences, text messaging can reach targeted audiences that online methods simply don’t have in their panels.
Survey 160’s software is designed specifically to conduct surveys via text message conversation. At its core, Survey 160 aspires to help progressive organizations make better decisions by giving them access to high quality polling data. Their system uses peer-to-peer SMS designed end-to-end for research. Surveys can target audiences based on small geographies, customer lists, or defined segments of the electorate. The results are about 4-5 times the number of completed interviews per hour compared to live phone calls.
Co-founders Nate Lubin and Kevin Collins deeply understand the pain points of polling and how technology has evolved throughout campaign cycles. Nate worked for years in digital and technology strategy, running digital marketing for the Obama re-election campaign and leading the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House. Prior to starting Survey 160, he worked with more than 20 major corporations, non-profits, and startups in tech, media and philanthropy to address systemic challenges in our public discourse. Kevin is the former head of research at the Analyst Institute, and has an analytical background grounded in his time at Princeton.
The company began scaling in earnest in early 2019. In June, Survey 160 was selected as one of 17 recipients of New Media Ventures’ 2019 round of funding, and presented at their 2019 Summit in San Francisco. One of their recent polls in partnership with Gradient Metrics gained press attention in outlets like the New York Times and Bloomberg for conducting first-of-its-kind live interviews via text messages with 2016 presidential campaign donors.
Survey 160’s goal in 2020 is to make SMS-based survey collection a staple mode of research to help fuel a growing progressive wave. They are currently working with high-profile political campaigns at both the national and state level, as well as advocacy organizations and brands and are looking to expand throughout the year. The team is currently hiring a Lead Engineer and Analyst. If you’re interested in learning more about Survey 160, check out their website.