Friday, November 14, 2008

Exit Polls and Polls in General

I am a good person to call if you are taking a poll. I will usually answer all of your questions honestly and concisely. And I think general polls are a good thing, as I have mentioned here before, if I don't tell them how I like something, how will they know to do it my way?

But the polls I think that should be abolished are the ones done during an election. I mean c'mon we all know what liars people are especially during an election. You know that whomever is calling to ask who you are voting for has your party affiliation in front of them so of course you are going to say your party's candidate for fear of the polling police coming to snag you for voting against your party.

And then there is the whole "racism" aspect of this year's election. Would a Dem who wasn't going to vote for Obama be considered racist if he/she said so? Would a Rep who wanted to vote for Obama but didn't want his/her friends to know admit it to anyone? So you see polls during the election are screwy.

Exit Polls are the same way if not worse. Your vote is your business. It should be illegal to ask someone who they voted for. If for no other reason than that they are unaffective and inconsiderate.

According to Time magazine the first Exit Poll was done for CBS in 1967. 1993 AP and major networks join to create the Voters News Service to conduct the Exit Polls and disseminate the information to everyone a the same time. In 2000 we saw how effective the Exit Polls were when the networks first called the Presidential race for Gore, then for Bush and then for an unprecedented "neither". In 2002 the VNS computers break down on election day and the VNS is disbanded the following year. So now it is a free for all with everyone getting and disseminating their information at their own pace. Beginning in 2004 the "pollsters" are now confined to a room in New York City with no internet or cell phone acess until 5pm est.

What really bothers me the most regarding Exit Polls is the same as someone online talking about a show I can't watch for another 3 hours. If you read Kathy's post you know we had a great turnout at our polling place this year. But I think it could have been even better. According to People Magazine the race was pretty much called by 10pm EST. But the parties waited to make their speeches until after the West Coast polls closed at 11pm EST. But that didn't stop the news organizations. We in the polling place (unbeknowst to the constituents coming in to vote) knew long before the polls closed what the outcome was. And so, I think did our voters.

Our great turnout all happened before lunch. After that voting dwindled. With results starting to be reported from the East Coast, apathy again began to set in. It leads to the thought that "my vote doesn't count". Unfortunately, by the dinner hour, voters were scarce to come by at our polling place and between the hour of 7 and 8 they were even more invisible.

California had many important issues on the ballot this year, and I think because of the Presidential race being called so early, that a lot of people didn't bother coming to the polls. And what about Alaska and Hawaii, really what incentive is there if the results are announce hours before they close their polls?

I am not one to bitch and moan without thinking through a problem and trying to find a solution. So here are my two cents, for what they are worth.

Universal polling times. All polls across the country open and close at the same time. Unfeasible? Maybe, but it could be done.

Gag order. How about the counties count their votes and put them into a sealed envelope and DONT TELL the news organizations until all polls are closed? No one knows anything until ALL the votes have been counted. For that matter not until the vote by mails are counted as well. Will it kill everyone to have to wait 24-48 hours for results?

Maybe it is me being idealistic, maybe in a perfect world we can figure this out, maybe in another 200 years our democracy will work itself out.

What do you think?


  1. Too bad you guys did not have anything else important on your ballot to draw people to the polls (NO on 8!!).

    I thought the news media (at least the ones I watched) showed great restraint in not calling it until 11pm. I don't mind election year polling. I think it certainly helped in Indiana where the outcome was thought to be clear but polling showed that it wasn't. So, otherwise disenfranchised voters showed up knowing that they can make a difference, so it can cut both ways.

    What we really need to do it get rid of all this time zone crap. When it is 8am at my house it should be 8am and your house (dark but 8am). Then no one could spoil anything for you. Well, Caity's bedtime might be spoiled since it won't get dark until around midnight in the summer, but that is a small price to pay.

  2. The idea of releasing results only 24 hours after the election sounds good to me, and I think it could be accomplished.

    "TIME ZONE CRAP" what a unique phrase. How about not only in the U.S. will it be 8:00 but all over the world?