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An exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling place. Unlike an scientific opinion poll, which asks whom the voter plans to vote for or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks whom the voter actually voted for. A similar poll conducted before actual voters have voted is called an entrance poll. Pollsters that conduct exit polls work usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters conduct exit polls to gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, as in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count. Most exit polls are supervised by academic faculty members of colleges and universities who teach political science.
Purpose of Exit Polls
Exit polls are also used to collect demographic data about voters and to find out why they voted as they did. Since actual votes are cast anonymously, conducting exit polls is the only way of collecting this information.
Exit polls have historically and throughout the world been used as a check against and rough indicator of the degree of election fraud. Some examples of voting fraud worldwide include the 2004 Venezuelan recall referendum and Ukrainian presidential election, along with the 2004 United States Presidential Election.
Known Problems and Errors
Like all opinion polls, exit polls by nature do include some margin of error. A famous example of exit poll error occurred in the 1992 United Kingdom General Election when two exit polls predicted a hung parliament meaning it would be a 50-50 split between the Labour and Conservative Parties. The actual vote revealed that British Conservative Party under Prime Minister John Major held their position, though with a significantly reduced majority. Investigations into this failure identified a number of causes including differential response rates including a factor known as the Shy Tory Factor which is known as the use of inadequate demographic data and poor choice of sampling points in attempt to influence voting patterns. 
Criticism and Controversy
Widespread criticism of exit polling has occurred in cases, especially in the United States where exit poll results have appeared and/or have provided a basis for projecting winners before all the polling places have closed, thereby possibly influencing election results. In the 1980 U.S. presidential election, NBC News predicted a victory for Ronald Reagan at 8:15 pm EST, based on exit polls of 20,000 voters. It was 5:15 pm on the West Coast, and the polls were still open. There was speculation that voters stayed away after hearing the results. Thereafter, in 1984 television networks voluntarily adopted a course of not projecting the presidential victor until after polls closed in the West while outlying states Hawaii and Alaska are excluded. In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, it was alleged that media organizations released exit poll results for Florida before the polls closed in the Florida panhandle region including Tallahasse and Pensacola.
During the 2004 United States Presidential Election, Leaks of early exit poll figures for the mainly via the internet and blogs appeared to indicate a victory for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, but the discrepancies between the exit poll data and the vote count that were outside of the margin of error, coupled with irregularities in the election which seem to explain the discrepancies and what many perceive as evasive tactics by the polling companies. The 2004 exit polling fiasco has shed doubt on the legitimacy of that election amongst political activists and some government officials to a degree on how exit polls can be trusted. Effective from the 2006 election cycle and in effect for the 2008 US Presidential Election, people working point persons for the major news networks are to be secluded from outside contact until such a time it is determined it is safe to release the polls.
Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Germany have made it a crime to release exit poll figures before the polling places have closed, while other nations such as New Zealand and Singapore have outlawed media outlets from commissioning exit polls at polling places . In some countries, problems with exit polls have encouraged polling groups and media organizations to pool data in hopes of increased accuracy. This proved successful during the 2005 United Kingdom general election, 2005 when British TV Networks BBC and ITV merged their data to show an exit poll giving the British Labour Party led by Tony Blair a majority of 66 seats, which turned out to be the exact figure. This method was also successful during the 2007 Australian Federal Election when networks including Sky News, Seven Network News, and Auspoll provided an almost exact 53 percent two party-preferred victory to Australian Labor Party over the Australia Coalition Party that held power before the election.
Notable US Elections known for Early Exit Polling Deciding the Outcome
There have been elections that other than making the winner a famous figure in American political history will go down infamously over criticisms of early exit polling when networks called the election while some states had their polls yet open.
2000 will be infamously known as the Florida election. On Election night 2000 at approximately 7:50 PM EST on election day, 70 minutes before the polls closed in the largely-Republican Florida panhandle, which is in the Central time zone, some television news networks including CBS and NBC declared that Gore had carried Florida's 25 electoral votes. News networks who made the call early based the prediction on exit polling. As the election went further in the evening, the actual vote tally in Florida shown that Governor George W. Bush began to take a wide lead early in Florida, and by 10 PM EST the networks who made their projection for Gore retracted that prediction and placed Florida back into the too close to call category. At approximately 2:30 AM Eastern Time, with 85% of the all precincts counted in Florida and figures provided by the Voter News Service showing Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, all the major television networks declared that Governor Bush had carried Florida and therefore was declared the winner. However, most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were located in the heavily Democratic counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach and as votes were being reported Gore began to gain on Bush. By 4:30 PM after all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush's margin to just over 2,000 votes and all the networks retracted their predictions that Bush had won Florida and the presidency. Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, now withdrew his concession and announced that he would wait for a recount in Florida before any further action. After the first recount by the morning of Wednesday, November 8 Bush's margin in Florida had dwindled to about 500 votes, narrow enough to trigger a mandatory recount in that state. In addition, Gore asked for hand recounts the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. This set into motion a series of recounts which had some recounts done by machine, and some portions by hand. Also, the recount had both campiagns questioning results about in portions of Florida from way down South in Broward County and way up North in Seminole.
These actions ultimately resulted on December 12, 2000 the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 stating that the Florida Supreme Court's plan for recounting ballots was unconstitutional, as well as a separate 5-4 decision that ended the Florida recounts and allowed Florida to certify its vote. The vote was certified according to Florida state election law by Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State who had been the Florida co-chair of Bush's campaign. Because Bush's younger brother, Jeb Bush,was the governor of Florida, there were allegations that Harris and Jeb Bush had manipulated the election to favor the governor's brother.
1984 was similar to what 1972 was going to offer to an election, as people knew President Ronald Reagan was the clear favorite to win his second term in office as polls showed him way over fifty percent almost nearing landslide thresholds of sixty percent as many did not give former Vice President Walter Mondale a shot to win.
1984 was like 1980 again as networks called the race early again. CBS and NBC used exit polls, but the two networks put themselves on a stricter standard of not announcing any winner till the polls were closed. ABC News had a policy during the 1984 election that they would not use exit poll data to determine a winner. At the time when polls closed in a bunch of states at 8:00 PM ET, CBS News called Reagan the winner as Reagan won key states of Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Florida, and Missouri to carry him over the top early.
The 1980 election will always be infamously known in terms of exit polling for calling the Presidential Election for Ronald Reagan before polls West of the Mississippi River did not close, especially in the West Coast. NBC News became the first network to call for California Governor Ronald Reagan at as John Chancellor of NBC made the announcement as CBS was second, and ABC that evening. President Jimmy Carter conceded the election hours before the polls closed in the West, especially in California.
NBC News announced Reagan the Winner at 8:15 PM Eastern Time on Election Night 1980 when Governor Reagan had the required 270 at the time to victory only to Carter's fifteen at the time when NBC declared Reagan the winner. Carter only won Georgia's 12 electoral votes and the District of Columbia. Reagan locked down key states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Michigan before NBC made its projection to call Reagan the winner off of exit poll data.
This was a race well known ahead of time on who would win the Presidential Election in the United States in 1972. CBS News was one of the first networks to call the race for Nixon by about 8:00PM Eastern Time that night basically handing Democratic Nominee George McGovern a crushing defeat by a 2 to 1 margin.. Veteran CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite delivered the news as early returns of the 1972 election came in on a 2 to 1 margin and held steady throughout the night securing Nixon's second term in office.
1985 US House of Representatives Elections Subcommittee Meetings on Exit Polls
In 1985 the presidents of ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News were called to testify before the House Subcommittee on Elections, which was exploring the idea of mandating a uniform poll closing across the nation as a way to solve the early call problems from 1972 and 1984. Legislators and News Presidents argued that if all the polls were to close simultaneously and broadcasters would agree not to release our exit poll data before poll closing time. Legislators argued if there is a uniform standard on exit polls then the issue of projecting a winner while people were still voting would be solved. The three major news networks at the time promised that they would not "project or characterize" election results in any state until after its polls closed. NBC and ABC already had a policy to not call states until the polls closed.
A former NBC News Executive said in a 2000 version of the Columbia Journalism review said that in the Internet age the promise not to call a winner in a state before the polls close never will be kept. On any given election day, anyone who listens to what reporters, analysts, anchors, and campaign staffs say on the air can figure out well before the polls close who's ahead, who's behind, and how close the race is.
Material has been copied from Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia.
- ↑ "British Market Research Society", The Opinion Polls and the 1992 Election, January 1, 1994
- ↑ "Article 19", Comparative study of laws and regulations restricting the publication of electoral opinion polls, January 1, 2003
- ↑ "Katherine Harris, W Files, CBS NEWS". http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/08/08/politics/main305435.shtml.
- ↑ Pallast, Gregory (April 29, 2004) "Vanishing Votes." The Nation.
- ↑ Taper, Jake (November 13, 2000) "The Woman Under Fire." Salon.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Columbia Journalism Review" Exit Polls, Academy Awards, and Presidential Elections, May 1, 2000
- ↑ "YouTube" CBS Calls 1984 for Reagan, October 30, 2008
- ↑ "MSNBC", 1980 NBC Calls for Reagan Video, October 30, 2008
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 "Roper Center", 1972 CBS News Exit Poll, October 30, 2008