Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Exit Polls - Don't Trust Them

Mystery Pollster has an excellent piece explaining everything you need to know about Exit Polling. I have a quick summary below, but click on the link above to get the whole story. The message, in short, is: don't trust them - it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. An abbreviated version below:

A quick summary of how exit polls work: The exit pollster begins by drawing a random sampling of precincts within a state, selected so that the odds of any precinct being selected are proportionate to the number that typically vote in that precinct. The National Election Pool Exit Poll, which is conducting the exit polling for the six major networks today, will send exit pollsters to 1,495 precincts across the country...

So if this poll is so sophisticated, why can't we rely on the leaked mid-day “numbers” that will soon spread like wildfire across the web?

1) It is still just a survey

2) The mid-day numbers do not reflect weighting by actual turnout

3) Voting patterns may be different early in the day

4) Early or absentee voting

5) They could be fictional

6) The people who do exit polls would rather you ignored them

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