Mucho flattering to Kerry; plus Nader makes an appearance.

Media criticism.
Nov. 2 2004 7:28 PM

Updated Late Afternoon Numbers

Mucho flattering to Kerry; plus Nader makes an appearance.

Florida
Kerry   51
Bush    49

Ohio
Kerry  51
Bush   49

Michigan
Kerry  52
Bush   46
Nader   1 

Pennsylvania
Kerry  53
Bush   46

Iowa
Kerry  50
Bush   49

Wisconsin
Kerry   51
Bush    48
Nader    1

Minnesota
Kerry   52
Bush    46
Nader     2

New Hampshire
Kerry   54
Bush    44
Nader    1

New Mexico
Kerry   50
Bush    48
Nader    1

Colorado
Kerry   49
Bush    50
Nader    1

Arkansas
Kerry   45
Bush    54
Nader    1

Missouri
Kerry   47
Bush    52

New York
Kerry   62
Bush    36
Nader    2

Nevada
Kerry    49
Bush     48
Nader     1

New Jersey
Kerry    54
Bush     44
Nader     1

West Virginia
Kerry    45
Bush     54
Nader     1

Why is Slaterunning these numbers? See this morning's piece. ... 4:20 p.m. PT

Late Afternoon Exit Polls: It's a tight squeeze: In the national exit poll, Kerry leads Bush 51-48. In Wisconsin he's up by three, and in Ohio and Florida he leads by one.

Why is Slaterunning these numbers? See this morning's piece. ... 3:16 p.m. PT

Early Exit: A sqeaker: The first wave of exit-poll data reaching my desk comes from a variety of sources. In some states the sources disagree about the specific margin by which a candidate leads, but never about which candidate is out in front. Some of the confusion may stem from the mixing of morning dexit-poll numbers with early afternoon numbers. With those provisos and the understanding that the early numbers are predictive of nothing without their accompanying computer model, here's what I've heard:

Florida
Kerry  50
Bush   49

Ohio
Kerry  50
Bush   49

Pennsylvania
Kerry 54
Bush 45

Wisconsin
Kerry 51
Bush 46

Michigan
Kerry  51
Bush   47

Minnesota
Kerry  58
Bush   40

Nevada
Kerry  48
Bush   50

New Mexico
Kerry  50
Bush   48

North Carolina
Kerry  49
Bush   51

Colorado
Kerry  46
Bush   53

Other exit-poll results have arrived in more vague form, with Kerry leading Bush in New Hampshire but trailing him in Arizona and Louisiana.

For an explanation of why Slate is posting exit-poll numbers, see the previous post, below. ... 12:15 p.m. PT

Exit Poll Charade: Why Slate is posting the exit-poll numbers: As this item posts, the first raw exit-poll data are streaming from the National Election Pool consortium owned by the Associated Press and the five television networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN) to their news divisions and to the newsrooms of NEP subscribers—big city newspapers and other broadcasters.

These early exit-poll numbers do not divine the name of the winner. Instead, regard these numbers as a sportswriter does the line scores from the fourth inning of a baseball game. The leading team might win the game, but then again it might not. But having the early data in front of him helps the sportswriter plot the story he thinks he'll need to write at game's end.

As you read this posting, the political reporters at the networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Newsweek, and about two dozen other news outlets are cracking their knuckles over their keyboards, contemplating the story, while statisticians and political analysts at the networks prepare to run the numbers through their computer models to generate a prediction.

The paid users of exit-poll data have signed a blood oath not to divulge it to unauthorized eyes, and the networks have promised not to call any states before their polls close. But the numbers always leak out to other journalists—such as the writers at Slate—and starting at about 5 p.m. ET or so, the news anchors start giving clues about what they've learned from the exit-poll results. As John Tierney writes in today's New York Times, the result on television is sometimes like a "version of the Dance of the Seven Veils, in which anchors or correspondents will pretend not to know what's happening in a state but give enough clues for the discerning viewer. They might allude to the high spirits at one campaign headquarters, or start speculating about what effect the loss of this state would have on the other candidate."

In the 2003 gubernatorial election in California, the networks kept their solemn oath not to call the winner until polls closed at 11 p.m. ET. Just the same, CBS News' Dan Rather telegraphed his findings in this 6:30 p.m. ET broadcast.

With voting still under way in the California governor recall election, CBS News exit polls, for whatever, if anything, they may be worth, now indicate many voters made up their minds weeks ago. … If [Gov. Gray Davis] is recalled, there are widespread expectations—again, for whatever they may be worth—that Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger would replace Davis.

On CNBC, John Seigenthaler maintained a straight face in the 7 p.m. ET time slot as he divulged these exit-poll results: "Nearly three-quarters of California voters, 73 percent, say they disapprove of [Gov. Gray Davis'] job performance." Need he have drawn a picture? Meanwhile, MSNBC and Fox indulged in similar mugging. Watch the airwaves for such giveaways this evening.

Slate believes its readers should know as much about the unfolding election as the anchors and other journalists, so given the proviso that the early numbers are no more conclusive than the midpoint score of a baseball game, we're publishing the exit-poll numbers as we receive them. Some people say it's irresponsible to publish the numbers—or broadcast early projections of winners—because it may disturb voter turnout. As Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg put it in today's Times, he doesn't want to put the Web site "in the paternalistic position of deciding that our readers aren't mature enough to react in the proper way to truthful information we possess."

Watch this space. … 11:50 a.m. PT

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

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