Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ignore the exit polls. Here's why.

The polls are starting to close in the early states, and until the official vote tallies are reported by the supervisors of elections, the networks will include information from exit polls in their reporting.

You should completely ignore any results coming from exit polls. Here is why:

First of all, the traditional arrangement between the media outlets to gather exit polling data was significantly altered this year. They are not gathering data from a significant number of states, states which almost all lean right [insert your favorite conspiracy theory here].

Besides the limited data coming from this year's exit polls, the information gathered from individual states is also not trustworthy. The 2004 exit polls predicted a John Kerry win, and many of the networks reported that, only to have to revoke their announcements later that night.

Here's a graphic with a good breakdown of the discrepancies between exit polls and actual votes in 2004 and 2008:
(Click image to enlarge)
Finally, I've embedded a detailed memo below describing the many problems with the 2004 exit polls, and how the media coverage was shaped.

Backgrounder -- 2004 Exit Polling

Please share this post with anyone who is putting too much weight in these exit polls.

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