Exit Polls

EXIT POLLS….Michael Sean Winters grouses about the media’s continuing reliance on exit polls despite the fact that they seem to be consistently inaccurate these days:

The problem last night was that the exit polls were way wrong. At about 6:35 p.m., the Huffington Post leaked the exit polls, predicting that Obama would win New Jersey, Arizona and Massachusetts. In fact, he won none of those states. But, the expectations were set.

….Bill Schneider gave thoughtful analyses from the same exit polls, telling America how women had voted, how Latinos had voted, what issues mattered most. He neglected to say that the polls had failed to get the winning candidate correct. On ABC, Charlie Gibson noted that the exit polls indicated that late-deciding voters had broken towards Clinton by a significant margin, but did not share the bad news about those same polls misjudging entire states.

There’s really something to this. Four years ago I had exit poll fever too, but this year I don’t. Why? Because they’ve been wrong so often. Why would I get all excited about data that’s little better than random noise?

Once all the slicing and dicing is done, exit polls provide useful demographic information. But if I were a professional reporter or talking head, I’d actively try to avoid early exit poll data these days. Why run the risk of twisting my expectations in the wrong direction and then having to clear my head later on? You wouldn’t wait breathlessly for the afternoon astrological predictions, so why do the same for the afternoon exit polls?