Exit zone.

Media criticism.
Nov. 6 2004 12:23 AM

Exit Zone

The official excuses for the bad exit poll numbers don't cut it.

(Continued from Page 1)

As for the Edison/Mitofsky concession that Kerry voters might have distorted exit polls in his favor with their eagerness to complete a post-ballot questionnaire, this generic excuse was also used in the 1996 Arizona Republican presidential primary. The final exit poll gave candidate Patrick J. Buchanan 31 percent of the vote, while the actual count gave him only 27. This 4 percentage point differential exceeded the poll's margin of error by 1 percentage point. Voter News Service Editorial Director Murray Edelman attributed the error to enthusiastic Buchanan voters in a Feb. 29, 1996, Washington Post story. "Buchanan's voters are much more fired up. They're more eager to talk about it, more behind what they just did," he said. In 2000, VNS determined that in Kentucky, Bush voters were more likely to complete the exit pollster's questionnaire, according to this CBS News post-mortem from 2000. Blaming anomalous exit-poll data on enthusiastic voters seems to be a standard industry cop-out and ex-post facto reasoning at its worst.

The CBS News post-mortem should be read by everybody who cares about election coverage. It admits that broadcasters have been remiss in not educating viewers and recommends fuller disclosure about how the process works, even suggesting that the networks explain why some election calls are not made, "so that the audience knows we are not consulting a crystal ball." But why stop there? Why not release the exit poll numbers to the public at the same time they go to the news media? The whole rationale for keeping the numbers secret in the first place was that they might deter voters from casting their ballots. But after the experience of 2004, nobody is going to believe that raw exit polls are any better at predicting elections than conventional political pollsters, some of whom called the presidential election right, and some of whom called it wrong.

Advertisement

One conventional pollster, by the way, got the election wrong and right. John Zogby's final poll called the election for Bush. But then he switched to Kerry at 5 p.m. on Election Day. Is he blaming the exit polls, too?

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

The Feds Have Declared War on New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Europe’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celebrity Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?