The Problem With Exit Polls
Maybe somebody can answer this question for me: All of us are bombarded with exit polls, and all of us know that they can be ...
Maybe somebody can answer this question for me: All of us are bombarded with exit polls, and all of us know that they can be wrong about final results -- famously wrong, as with John Kerry in 2004, but also in quite a few other cases since then. We know this because it's possible to lay the official tally against the poll and see that they don't match.
Why, then, do we take it as absolute truth when an exit poll proclaims that Hillary Clinton got 60 percent of the vote among female Catholics, or that English majors went for Barack Obama 4-1? These are interesting numbers, but they're almost always unverifiable. The only way you can check on them is to run a competing poll at the same time among a similar group, and that's rarely done any more. Who knows what the real numbers might be?
The bottom line is that we're suspicious of exit polls -- properly so -- where their accuracy can be tested, and utterly gullible when it's impossible to know whether they are right or wrong.
I realize that there's a strong constituency that lives off these polls -- TV networks, bloggers, consultants, political scientists - but I also think that we are making bold assumptions that may or may not have much in common with reality.
Maybe English majors actually love John McCain. I doubt that, but I also doubt that an exit poll is the best way to find out.
Join the Discussion
After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.
Amid Closing Abortion Clinics, Ohio Opens a New One54 minutes ago
Planned Parenthood Sues Governors of Alabama and Louisiana49 minutes ago
U.S. Supreme Court Settles Whether Clerks Can Refuse to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses39 minutes ago
Court Grants Ex-Gov. McDonnell Freedom While Corruption Case Continues29 minutes ago
Texas Challenges Ruling That Dismissed Charge Against Rick Perry10 minutes ago
In Troubled Prisons, Florida Makes Top Officials Reapply for Their Jobs15 minutes ago