Why did the Networks Cancel Exit Polls in 19 States?

04 Oct

Why did the Networks Cancel Exit Polls in 19 States?

Richard Charnin
Oct. 4, 2012

The decision to eliminate 2012 election exit polls in 19 states by the National Election Pool is a blow to Election Integrity. Unadjusted state exit poll data have been a major component in calculating exit poll discrepancies.

Of course, we don’t get to see the unadjusted exit poll numbers until months or years after the election. But having the data for just 31 states means that it will no longer be possible to compare the total weighted average of the state polls to the official recorded share.

The full set was required in the 1988-2008 unadjusted state-exit-polls statistical reference to show that in the six presidential elections, the Democrats won the average unadjusted state and national exit polls by a 52-42% margin. Their recorded margin was just 48-46%.

These states will be excluded: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. This worksheet/graph displays 2008 recorded vote and exit poll statistics for each state.

Although not battleground states, they are still required to calculate the total weighted average National Vote Share. In fact, the unadjusted exit polls in these states showed that Obama did much better in the polls than the recorded vote..

McCain led Obama by 55.3-43.4% (3.4 million) in the 19 states, but only by 51.2-47.3% (1.1 million) in the corresponding exit polls. Obama actually won the exit polls in Alaska, Nebraska and Georgia. He was exactly tied with McCain in South Dakota.

Romney may assume that Obama will win the overall popular vote, just like Bush assumed Kerry would in 2004. Bush could not have a repeat of the 2000 election in which Gore won the popular vote. Bush needed votes in close battleground states like Ohio in order to capture the all-important electoral vote, but he also needed to win a popular vote “mandate”. Given the exit polls in vote-rich Democratic states like New York and California, Kerry’s margins were reduced by one-third. No one even considered that the official counts were fraudulent since Kerry won the states in landslides. The focus was on Ohio.

Consider Texas with its 38 electoral votes and 8 million popular votes. Obama lost the Texas exit poll by 6.1% (52.3-46.2) and the recorded vote by 11.8% (55.4-43.6), a 460,000 difference in margin. With a large and growing Hispanic vote, could Obama have a chance of actually winning Texas?

Without having the exit poll, it will be more difficult to estimate if the official, recorded vote is legitimate. If Romney’s true Texas margin is padded by 500,000, why would anyone be suspicious without an exit poll?

But we do have the True Vote Model , which can calculate the net defection of returning Obama voters that would be required to match the recorded vote. Maybe the TVM will provide some clues in lieu of the exit polls.

In 2008, in order to match the Texas recorded vote, McCain needed 21% of returning Kerry voters while Obama had 15% of returning Bush voters – a 6% net defection of Kerry voters.

Is the corporate media preparing for 2004 redux? The pollsters will continue to provide the National Exit Poll, a subset of the state polls which includes just 20% of the state respondents. But as it is standard operating procedure, the poll will be forced to match the recorded vote. It’s a moot point, since we are not going to see the unadjusted, pristine poll numbers until long after the election, if then.

The Director of Elections for ABC News, a member of the consortium that runs the exit poll, said the aim “is to still deliver a quality product in the most important states,” in the face of mounting survey costs, partially due to the continued rise in the number of cell phones which increases the cost of phone surveys.

He says that “the decision by the National Election Pool — a joint venture of the major television networks and The Associated Press — is sure to cause some pain to election watchers across the country”. He’s right about that.

But how much is transparency in our elections worth?

Election Model Forecast; Post-election True Vote Model

2004 Election Model (2-party shares)
Kerry 51.8%, 337 EV (snapshot)
State exit poll aggregate: 51.7%, 337 EV
Recorded Vote: 48.3%, 255 EV
True Vote Model: 53.6%, 364 EV

2008 Election Model
Obama 53.1%, 365.3 EV (simulation mean);
Recorded: 52.9%, 365 EV
State exit poll aggregate: 58.0%, 420 EV
True Vote Model: 58.0%, 420 EV

2012 Election Model (2-party shares)
Obama 51.6%, 332 EV (Snapshot)
Recorded : 51.6%, 332 EV
True Vote 55.2%, 380 EV


Posted by on October 4, 2012 in 2012 Election, Uncategorized


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12 responses to “Why did the Networks Cancel Exit Polls in 19 States?

  1. helenofmarlowe

    October 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    the aim “is to still deliver a quality product in the most important states,” in the face of mounting survey costs, partially due to the continued rise in the number of cell phones which increases the cost of phone surveys.

    But cell phones are not used in exit polls. I’m missing something. What is the connection?

  2. Richard Charnin

    October 5, 2012 at 3:01 am

    It’s double talk. The excuse is that they now have to interview cell-phone users in pre-election polls and in exit polls in states that have near 100% early mail-in or in-person paper ballots, such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Everything the media says about exit polling is meant to misdirect and confuse the public.

  3. Mark

    October 6, 2012 at 6:33 am

    The real reason the consortium has cut these states is that they know that if they report fifteen states coming in for Romney early, independent voters in other states will take notice and be swayed his way.

    • Richard Charnin

      October 6, 2012 at 7:14 am

      That makes no sense. Sixteen of the states are always heavily GOP. It’s a foregone conclusion that Romney will win them. The others are solidly Democratic states. To say that voters are discouraged or encouraged to vote on Election Day based on what they see or hear is another canard.

      The mainstream media consortium is not liberal. That’s another media myth It’s a CORPORATE media, which is owned and under the control of Republicans.

  4. davidgmills

    October 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I was wondering if this would matter. But now I see why it would. Maybe they are doing it to avoid the criticisms you continually reap on their head. It will make your job harder and your conclusions easier to dismiss. You wont have 13,000 exit poll votes to analyze like you did in 2004 and that means a larger margin of error.

    And of course we will have reluctant Romney voters to contend with again.

    • Richard Charnin

      October 7, 2012 at 2:10 am

      The 2004 National Exit Poll had 13,660 respondents. They will keep the National, although you will just see the adjusted numbers to match the recorded vote. But it will be obvious if the results are impossible, as they were in 2004 when they needed 6 million more returning Bush 2000 voters than were still living to match the recorded vote (a 110% Bush voter turnout).

      The same thing happened in 2008, when they needed 12 million more returning Bush voters than Kerry voters – a 103% turnout of Bush voters.

      What we will not have are the 19 state exit polls. But that’s ok. The True Vote Model will tell us if the recorded state vote shares are implausible.

      • davidgmills

        October 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm

        Will the national poll be 13,000 if they don’t do exit polling in 19 states? I would think it would be much smaller and perhaps not do any polling in these 19 states.

  5. Richard Charnin

    October 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I believe they said they will do polling for the 19 states, but just for the national poll. In any case the national will be forced to match the recorded vote, so we’ll never know, will we? They will just show the bogus adjusted crosstabs for the national -as they always do.

  6. Augusto Callejas

    October 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve written an iPhone app that allows you to share endorsements on upcoming elections with friends. With this new announcement of reduced exit poll coverage by the networks, perhaps my app could help fill in that gap by providing insight on how the voters are feeling state-by-state. In this case, my app would be considered an “entrance” poll since you can state your intention before you reach the polling booth.

  7. Jonah Kyle (@gopcongress)

    November 6, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Don’t forget: This is not just about trying to suppress GOP voters. What will happen is that the exit polls will be used to justify Democratic claims of GOP vote-tampering efforts, especially in states with razor thin margins for Romney. It has already been put out here in Daily Kos about what they will do when this happens:

    To me, THIS is the reason of the highly-weighted exit poll methodology.

    • Richard Charnin

      November 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

      The pre-election and exit polls are funded by the corporate media which always force them to match the recorded results. It is as simple as that


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