Monday, November 29, 2004

More Exit Poll Postmortem

I missed this article last week. Richard Morin, the Washington Post's Director of Polling, did some navel gazing on the discrepancy between the exit poll numbers of November 2 and official election results. While noting that exit polls are problematic, and usually do not influence the outcome (or are noticed after the close of most campaigns), he does agree with Warren Mitofsky, co-director of exit polling for the National Election Pool, that Republican malfeasance played a roll (does this remind anyone else of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign?):

Mitofsky, the veteran pollster who co-directed this year's exit surveys, fears that Republican voters refused to be interviewed in disproportionately higher numbers, thus skewing the results. Perhaps they were busier than Democrats and didn't have time to be interviewed. Perhaps they disliked the media's coverage of Bush, and showed it by snubbing poll interviewers. Whatever the reason, Mitofsky warned the networks about the apparent Democratic bias mid-afternoon on Election Day -- a caution "they chose to ignore," he told Terence Smith on PBS. (See correction to this attributed quote at the beginning of the article).

If the snubbing theory is confirmed, it would not be the first time that Republicans are believed to have just said no to exit pollsters. Historically, exit polls have been more likely to err on the side of Democratic candidates, though this bias is usually small. In 2000, for example, the exit polls overstated Democrat Al Gore's share of the vote by more than one percentage point in about 20 states, while inflating Bush's share in just 10 states.

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