Last Updated:November 28 @ 05:03 pm

Networks, AP changing exit poll strategy

By David Bauder

NEW YORK (AP) — A growth in early voting and tough economy for the media are forcing changes to the exit poll system that television networks and The Associated Press depend upon to deliver the story on Election Night, all with the pressure-filled backdrop of a tight presidential race.

The consortium formed by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, NBC and the AP is cutting back this year on in-person exit polls while upping the amount of telephone polling. This is to take into account more people voting before Nov. 6 and households that have abandoned land lines in favor of cell phones.

"It makes it trickier," said Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research, the company that oversees the election operation for the news organizations. "It means there are a lot of different pieces to keep track of."

On a perfect Election Night, Americans who are tracking results won't notice all the work being done behind the scenes. The Associated Press reports actual vote counts nationwide and news organizations use those numbers, plus the exit polls, to do their own race calls. But things haven't always gone perfectly. The news organizations completely rebuilt their exit poll system after the 2000 embarrassment, when TV networks mistakenly called the race for George W. Bush when it wasn't decided until a month later (the AP mistakenly called Florida for Bush, retracted it but, unlike the networks, never called the overall race for Bush). In 2004, early exit poll results overestimated the strength of Democrat John Kerry.

To save money this year, the consortium is doing bare bones exit polling in 19 states. Enough voters will be questioned in those states to help predict the outcome of races, but not enough to draw narrative conclusions about the vote — what issues mattered most to women voting for Mitt Romney, for instance, or how many Catholics voted for Barack Obama.

The affected states are: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia.

Each is considered a non-battleground state with polls showing a strong advantage for one of the presidential candidates. Some non-battleground states will get the full exit poll for other reasons, like Massachusetts and its hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

"What we are doing is taking our resources and using them where the stories are," said Sheldon Gawiser, NBC's elections director and head of the steering committee for the AP-network consortium.

Spending figures were not made available. News organizations have had a tough few years financially, but the consortium noted that it is interviewing a total of 25,000 voters this year, up from 18,000 in 2008.

Because of early voting, there are no traditional exit polls in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. A phone poll is done prior to Election Day in those states, taking in a mixture of people who have and haven't voted. Others states have a mixture of telephone polling and exit interviews. California, North Carolina and Arizona are among the states where the percentage of telephone polls has grown because of more people voting early.

More people are interviewed on cell phones because it is the primary way to contact them. The consortium said cell phone interviews are twice as expensive as those on land lines because of manpower costs, in large part because it is harder to reach people and federal law requires the phone numbers to be manually dialed instead of done by computers.

In addition to the exit poll changes, the news organizations are taking steps to improve their ability to include actual vote counts in their decisions on when to call particular states as a winner for either candidate. This usually involves collecting sample precincts that reflect a state's demographics.

Even this is complicated by local customs. Some states report precinct results more quickly than others. New Mexico, for example, sets up polling places where anybody from a particular county can cast a ballot; while this makes voting easier, it makes projections based on precinct samples more difficult.

Television viewers may notice that networks are being slower than in the past to project winners in certain states, but the consortium believes people won't see a difference.

If the actual election is as close as the pre-election polls are suggesting, it will be a long night, anyway.

With all the factors increasing the difficulties and costs associated with exit polling, it's worth wondering whether a time will come that the news organizations abandon them in favor of the pre-election polling. The experts say that time is nowhere near.

"One of the great advantage of exit polls is you don't have to worry about who voted. You don't have all of these 'likely voter' issues that you have now," said Lee Miringoff, a pollster at Marist College.

Gawiser noted how the minds of voters can change, even up until the last possible minute.

"It's a story we want to be able to tell on Election Night and we want to be able to tell it accurately and rapidly," he said. "I really don't think it's much different than any other story we tell."

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  1. bizzybuzzerComment by bizzybuzzer
    October 25, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    Change is wut the voters asked for at the last election and they got it. It’s getting to where the dead can’t even vote any more. If the media is going to cut back on election day what will the president do that he hasn’t lied about already?
    Election night can be handled by one person in the news to tell us how it stands and who won. Time for opinions is not relative at that time. What about afterwords, does that mean that something beside the election will happen ?

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    • LAPhilComment by LAPhil
      October 25, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

      Couldn’t agree more. Exit polls serve no constructive purpose and can in fact be quite destructive. A lot of people become discouraged by the reported results whether or not they’re accurate, and decide not to vote if they think their vote won’t count because a particular candidate is declared to be the winner or so far ahead as to make the election appear out of reach.

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  2. adrianpaulComment by adrianpaul
    October 25, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    The exiting polling by the MSM is for the purpose of swaying the voters west of the Mississippi as to how well B.O. is doing on the east coast!

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  3. larryhagedonComment by larryhagedon
    October 25, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    Phone polls do not work because of the fraudulent vote. In my obervations of over 50 years, Democrats rely very heavily upon fraudulent voting to win elections, almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes nationwide.

    The problem for the pollsters in that dead foks do not answer the phone when the pollster calls.

    The apparantly hundreds of thousands of Democrats that vote multiple times, get called no more than once per poll.

    This is why they need to weight the calling for the Democrats, to make up for the dead folks that are voting but not answering their phone and the multiple voters that get called at most, once per poll.

    If we can stop voter fraud, the Democrat Party will dry up and blow away.

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    • vin5ronComment by vin5ron
      October 25, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

      Fighting vote fraud is where Trump should have put his money but that would have required actually spending some.

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    • sexysadieComment by sexysadie
      October 25, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

      Well I say that’s not fair to dead folks! They’re being disenfranchised! Get out the protesters to every cemetery in the nation! Install landlines to every coffin in the nation! Oh gosh…what about the cremated folks??

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  4. jmccarthy1Comment by jmccarthy1
    October 25, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    If you are “Exit Polled” just lie to them about how you voted. Give’em a tast of their own medicine.

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  5. sexysadieComment by sexysadie
    October 25, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    Yeah…I’m gonna tell them I voted for Elmer Fudd…

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    • LAPhilComment by LAPhil
      October 25, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

      I’ve been told that a lot of people do lie to the exit pollsters just to mess with them. That’s another reason not to trust the exit polls.

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    • cdrcodyComment by cdrcody
      October 26, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

      No, tell them you voted for Obama. This will get them more excited. Then when the real numbers come out they will look stupider than usual.

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  6. Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
    October 25, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    That comment on Massachusetts really made me laugh. Warren is a joke…..first she tries to claim American Indian heritage and then she’s outed as having actually practiced law in Massachusetts but no law license can be found for her. Where does the latter matter stand or has it just been dropped. Warren started whining when the “politicking” got a little heated. If she wants to mix it up with the big people she’d better develop a thicker skin!

    I was born in Massachusetts and raised in Maine…………my dad was fond of stating that Massachusetts residents would vote for Satan himself if he ran on the Democrat ticket!

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  7. JDZComment by JDZ
    October 25, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

    It is sad when the American people no longer trust our election system to be a valid process and safe from manipulation. This country was based on free and honest elections that reflected who the majority of people voted for to be elected. Nowadays, there is so much activity centered around voter registration and voting that I question the quality of the process to the point that in close elections, it is not clear if the peoples choice actually gets elected. In the 2008 and 2010 elections, all of the close elections that went into a recount switched from a GOP winner to a Democrat in most cases. Those where the Democrat was ahead prior to the recount maintained their lead. It does not make sense to me. I believe the liberals manipulate the voting much more then conservatives, particularly in the districts where the Dems are in control of the election process.

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    • LAPhilComment by LAPhil
      October 25, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

      Yeah, funny thing about how it’s always the Democrat that comes out ahead after the recount when the Republican is ahead initially. You can add Al Franken in Minnesota and Christine Gregoire in Washington to the elections you mentioned as examples of this. The Franken case was particularly egregious, as he picked up a net total of about 900 votes in the recount, which would have been statistically almost impossible if the difference had been distributed randomly.

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  8. jmccarthy1Comment by jmccarthy1
    October 25, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    When I voted and they gave me the “I Voted” sticker it occured to me…do democrats have enough common courtesy to at least go to the cemetary and put the “I Voted” sticker on the headstones?

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  9. braines57Comment by braines57
    October 26, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    You have only mentioned one part of the Osama voting machine. The motto in Chicago is “vote early, vote often and don’t forget about the graveyard vote.” I wonder how many of Osama’s “plants” will vote early in one state or district and then go to another one and vote on election day???? I wouldn’t put anything past him, regardless of whether he’s in front or behind in the polls.


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  10. pudgyComment by pudgy
    October 26, 2012 @ 9:29 am

    It wouldn’t break my heart, if the media found out that we all lied to them when polled. If the President can lie (Libya, etc, why not us? Who needs the media to make stupid commentary while making their predictions on election night. Put all the talking heads out of work. Send Peers (sp?) Morgan back to Britain. Best of all, lets all agree to NOT watch TV on election night and foul up the pollsters who count which channels we watch.

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