Wednesday, February 10, 2016

SHOW EXIT POLLS THE EXIT

Last night SWMBO and I settled down in front of the television, ready to watch the results of the New Hampshire Primary Election trickle in.

So what happened?

FIVE SECONDS after the polls (allegedly) closed, the two cable news networks we watch (CNN and MSNBC) announced that Donald Trump had won the Republican contest and Bernie Sanders had won on the Democratic side!

In case you missed it, let me repeat: FIVE. SECONDS.

Now I don't want to rant here about the lack of wisdom of the voters of New Hampshire, many of whom were still in line or in their cars trying to get into the polling places.

If they want to select as winners a businessman who talks like a Mafia don and an aging Senator who says he's a Socialist . . well, that's their choice.

But come on.

I had barely taken a sip of my first drink when the election was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Now some of you or all of you may know that I was a card-carrying member of the Media for 30 years or so.

And back in the day, I certainly wouldn't have suggested this.

But let's ban these darned exit polls that ruin the evening for us.

I remember the days of brokered conventions and smoke-filled rooms and nomination battles that could go on for hours and hours.

I remember Adlai Stevenson and Robert Taft, for crying out loud.

I remember the election of 1960 when John F. Kennedy finally eked out a victory over Richard Nixon after even JFK had gone to sleep.

Heck, some of you may even remember Bush v. Gore in 2000, a contest that lasted for weeks.

Those were "the good old days" for political junkies.

But now we don't even get a chance to swallow a cheese puff or two before we're told who won the election.

So (apologies to my friends who may still be in the media) let's get rid of exit polls and just count the votes.

Slowly.

7 comments:

  1. I share your pain, media brother in the black arts of communication.
    In my years of reporting from the field, to anchoring election night, to being the senior analyst to running a news division we wanted to be first with reaction and of course first with the call of who won. We hired political operatives from both parties to set up a series of key or flash precincts. Based on traditional performance of that precinct weighted with party percentage, the key precincts could give us the data to predict. It was our call as to when to make the "call." Then came the sophisticated world of exit polls with greater data crunch and then algorithmic analysis and so we start off an evening with a called win. Not only does it turn off the voters, it often gives the voter/viewer a chance to turn off the coverage, unless they are a true student of politics or a political junkie which is the hard core case. A net work is covering the big race-the federal election and all of the nets have access to the same technology. At the local and state level there is often more uncertainty and you do have to wait until some outstanding precincts come in. The skeptic in me always reasoned some of those key precincts-like Cook County Illinois, or Lake County Indiana, etc. etc, were in the domain of party bosses who could "deliver" the vote totals needed.
    There is an however to this---thanks to the Nate Silver generation of pollsters and number crunching-we all knew Trump and Sanders were the likely winners in New Hampshire, so election days have become a kind of ratification of the polls. Too much attention to the horse race. I think you've inspired me to to write a post on this topic too.

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    1. I figured my post would stir you up! :D

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  2. I keep thinking of a grinning Harry Truman holding up the newspaper declaring Dewey the victor. Every once in a while, maybe they'll be wrong. As Tom points out above, the sophistication now of the prediction probably rules it out, but one can hope.

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  3. I get it, but I do agree with you on this one.It's like tuning into the Super Bowl and having the winner announced after the kickoff.

    OK, it's a lot different than that, but I still agree with you.

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  4. Fox news mistakenly called it for Trump hours before the polls even closed.

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  5. Brian Williams is such a hack...Andrea Mitchell can't hide her complete and utter disdain for HRC, what happened? The Clintons must not invited the Greenspans to a cocktail party or something. Chris Matthews is long past his sell date...jeez.

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