EXIT THE POLLS
It just keeps happening; our fair and balanced press keeps making the same mistakes election after election. It’s never their fault. First it was the fault of the voter news service, then the fault of the National Election Pool, now the blame lies with that evil genius Karl Rove. Why does it keep happening? Why does the press keep getting the exit polls so very wrong?
The media uses exit polling to give them raw data about who is voting, why they are voting that way, and how they are voting. Exit polling is intended to be a tool to help them extrapolate the real election results by giving them a statistical model with which to compare the real results. For example, if 8% of precincts report George Bush leading by 51% to 49%, and the exit polls show this number with a sampling of voters which match the actual conditions of the precinct, it is safe to extrapolate the results and call this precinct for Bush provided your model contains an adequate sampling of all voters in the precinct and can predict the timing of said votes. If your actual results show a variation from the exit polls it becomes necessary to wait until your voting pool becomes large enough for any corrections to be made to your exit poll sample. In other words, you can call an election with a small portion of precincts reporting provided your exit poll data matches up. Often this is not the case, because of the vagaries of chance and timing of polls. Also, you assume your questions will be answered honestly (not always the case). The problem with exit poll numbers is that they are a rough approximation until your sample group of voters because large enough to be immune to error. Early results are raw data, and not indicative of what the real results will show.
During Tuesday’s election someone leaked the early raw data to Internet bloggers, and all hell broke loose. Who leaked this, and why? Former Clinton campaign manager Dick Morris accused the Democrats of leaking this for purely political purposes, and many inside sources have suggested that this was indeed coming from the Kerry camp. If this is correct it is a cynical attempt to influence the election and is probably a violation of campaign law-someone should be going to jail over this. The early exit polls were decidedly damaging to President Bush, and may well have depressed voter turnout in the western states.
What do we really know about these exit polls? ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX NEWS, and the AP banned together to create the National Election Pool (NEP) to replace the Voter News Service after the VNS failed repeatedly to give accurate information. The Networks hired two polling agencies to conduct their exit polls; Edison Media Research and Mitofsky. Joe Lenski, cofounder of Edison, put out a statement on their website on October 28 warning the Networks (and viewers) ``Don`t be fooled by early returns``.
He warned that early returns tend to be inaccurate.
Edison is a company founded in 1994 by Joe Lenski and Larry Rosen. Joe Lenski, a Princeton graduate, worked for none other than the Voter News Service before opening Edison and was part of the decision team making projections for CNN and CBS from 1996-2000. Larry Rosen was likewise a Princeton graduate, attending the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International affairs, Their educational backgrounds suggest they may have a liberal bent. Their qualifications make one wonder why they were chosen to participate in the NEP considering their close association with the discredited VNS.
Likewise, Warren Mitofsky is an interesting choice; former head of the CBS Election Survey Unit and Executive Producer of election night broadcasts for CBS, Mitofsky seems to have done considerable survey work for liberal issues. He did work on the Amadou Diallo case, worked on the Challenge to overturn the refusal to seat Diane Feinstein in the Senate, and worked on a legal challenge to laws against exit polling in Washington State and Florida. Mitofsky was the FOUNDER of the Voter Research and Surveys, which was the forerunner of the discredited Voter News Service.
Why did the media go to these organizations for the NEP? I am not saying that they are necessarily biased, but it is strange that people closely associated with the old Voter News Service would be put in charge of running its successor. Could the early results have been ginned up to help Kerry? Could the NEP UNCONSCIOUSLY have made judgement calls for Kerry when in doubt?
The NEP was adamant; their exit polls were right on the money. Joe Lenski DID warn against reading too much into the early results. Still, it is undeniable that someone twisted the results to benefit Kerry. Those early results were WAY off. Had it been as close as 2000 the exit polls could have swung the election. Who is to blame here? We need an investigation to get to the bottom of this. These mistakes always seem to benefit Democrats. A matter of chance? I just don`t believe that.
The Networks can`t be blamed for the results; their numbers were all in agreement (including Fox News). It may be, however, that they were the source of the leaks. Certainly these numbers should not have been given to any campaign lest they be misused. Given the ridiculously one sided campaign coverage, and given the fact that the AP`s own polling made the assumption that 9 out of every 10 voters would break for Kerry, it should have been obvious that anything damaging to Bush would race into the ether. The concept of media bias is no longer arguable.
The Networks continue to hide behind the skirts of the First Amendment, and callously blame their pollsters. It is perhaps time to consider what we mean by freedom of the press; we certainly do not have that in this country. Our press is an oppressive regime. It starts with the journalism schools and continues all the way to the top of the networks. Dan Rather, for instance, uses forged documents for political ends and suffers no consequences. Why? Isn`t it obvious that we need regime change at CBS?
The left simply has control of too many aspects of the dissemination of information. We will continue to face distortions, inaccuracies, and outright lies until we break the stranglehold of the left-wing media. Fortunately we have been making inroads; Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Etc. We still have a long, hard slog ahead.
One way to start is by demanding accountability. The Justice Department should pursue an investigation into this matter. We should outlaw the use of exit polling in elections. I would like to go further and demand that the press not be allowed to report ANY results until all the polls close in the United States; early reporting distorts the vote. Consider the impact of calling the ``battleground`` states on the east coast early. People in Oregon, or Alaska are still waiting in line to vote. Even if the exit polls were 100% accurate this will still affect state and local races. There simply is no good justification for rushing out potentially faulty election results (remember the press calling Florida for Gore before the Panhandle had a chance to vote in 2000?)
It`s time to seriously consider banning this over aggressive and biased reporting of election results.
It`s time to exit the polls.