Exit Poll Fever

EXIT POLL FEVER….I guess I hit a nerve in my previous post about exit polls ? although not quite the one I expected. And since I’m about to write another post based on exit polling, I might as well clear the air about something beforehand:

Yes, I’ve received dozens of emails and read dozens of online articles suggesting that if this year’s exit polls didn’t match the official tallies, it’s the official tallies that were wrong, not the exit polls. In other words, we wuz robbed!

And maybe we were. However, so far I haven’t seen a single piece of hard evidence to back this up. Some of the articles are just warnings that Diebold machines without paper trails are a bad idea. (I agree.) Some are based on problems with early exit poll data, which is meaningless. Some rely on alleged oddities in individual counties. None of them acknowledge that exit polls always have a margin of error, or that they might also have suffered from some kind of systematic error this year.

Bottom line: if anyone has any serious evidence to back up their contention that Republicans fiddled with the ballot boxes, please send it to me. I’d genuinely like to see it. Without said evidence, however, there just isn’t anywhere to go with this stuff. Sorry.

UPDATE: Via commenter Joel, professor Sam Wang of Princeton has a blog-like site with ongoing meta-analysis of the difference between the exit polls and the actual results. Read from the bottom up starting on November 2.

His conclusion: nothing looks seriously out of whack except possibly for Florida, and even there county level results mostly seem pretty easily explainable. For the most part, exit polls were off only by small amounts, and methodology problems seem the most likely explanation.

UPDATE 2: Jesse Lee points out that three congressmen are asking for an investigation of voting irregularities in several places. However, it’s worth noting that “the congressmen emphasized that they were not seeking a nationwide recount and were not anticipating that an investigation would change the outcome of the election.”