Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What exit polls can reveal

Mystery Pollster has a much better explanation of the role of exit polls and their role, or lack thereof, in any irregularities.

Key lines:

"Exit polls are certainly a powerful tool in uncovering vote fraud, when it exists. If, as some allege, a particular type of voting equipment was used to perpetuate a wide scale deception last week, the raw exit poll data could help reveal it. I’m dubious about these claims, to say the least, but that’s my opinion. Those who disagree are right to press the exit pollsters for more answers."

"Regarding the exit poll results captured at various times of the evening: We may know the time they appeared on a given website, but we do not know how old those tabulations were when they were posted, and more important, we do not know the extent to which any given sample was corrected to conform with the actual vote."

and this is the kicker:

"Although the data now in the public domain is not much help, the raw data puts the exit pollster in a strong position to evaluate some of the speculation about vote fraud. If, for example, someone tampered with tabulations from touch screen voting machines that lacked a paper trail, then an analysis of the poll data should show a greater discrepancy in precincts with such machines.

A New York Times article that appeared last Friday implies that such an analysis has already occurred. The National Election Pool (NEP) officials that conducted the exit polls wrote a report to debrief their clients on the apparent mishap. The Times article said their report “debunked” the theory of a fraudulent vote count, but did not elaborate. As far as I know, that report has not been made public.

Skeptics are certainly right to want to see the data behind that conclusion. As should be obvious, the raw data is under the control of the organizations -- ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press – that collectively own it. In past years they have deposited the raw data at the archives of the Roper Center, where it is available for analysis to the general public. Mr. Kaus is right: It would be relatively easy for a major network or newspaper to use the raw exit poll data to debunk – or at least explore – the claims of voter fraud. I’m all for it."

So am I.

As for why Mystery Pollster is dubious about fraud? Only because he thinks that the pollsters behind the exit polls would be quicker to save their reputation if they sensed that their exit polls were accurate and the voting results were wrong. For me, that's not enough.