This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beware The Exit Poll

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Tue, Nov 4, 2008 at 3:02 PM

The first polls are closing within minutes and we will be inundated with exit poll information. These running tally's are what make the national election the equivalent of Superbowl Sunday for political junkies. But here's some advice from Pollster.com blogger, Mark Blumenthal:

Everyone wants to know as much as possible about the outcome of this election as soon as possible. But you will do yourself a favor if you ignore what leaks out before the polls close, or at least try not to jump to any conclusions about the likely outcome based on what you see. Why? First, the McCain campaign is right: Historically, the leaked exit poll results have "tended to overstate the Democratic vote," and as I reported in March, and the early leaked results during the primaries tended to overstate the Obama vote as well.

Why is this? Well, exit polls are really no better than random sampling surveys. Also, they can have as much as a +/- 7% margin of error. There are a whole bunch of complicated reasons for this, and if you're interested, you can read them on Blumenthal's highly informative blog post, Exit polls: What You Should Know.

All that being said, I won't be able to keep myself from hopping on the drunken, emotional, exit poll roller coaster tonight--and blogging about it, of course

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