Release the Unweighted Exit Poll Data
by Chris Bowers, Tue Nov 16, 2004 at 12:31:05 PM EST
Further, what really sent traffic at MyDD skyrocketing, was when Jerome posted early exit results on Election Day. He told me over the phone that the exits were unweighted, but that didn't stop me from running around to the precincts in my neighborhood telling the volunteer I had met earlier in the day the good news. Apparently, as a final, painful irony, it was our own hopes that were raised and then dashed as a result of an unweighted poll... or were they?
After the election, exit polls and poll weighting remain highly controversial. The problem is simple: exit polls are rarely (if ever) divergent from the tabulated election results, but in this case they clearly were. However, those interested in investigating this discrepancy are unable to properly do so, because the public only has access to the post-election, re-weighted version of exit polls. These new exit polls are not divergent with the tabulated results, because they were re-weighted to match the final results.
Now, there is nothing wrong with re-weighting the exit polls after an election to match the final results. As Mark Blumenthal notes:As regular readers of this site know, NEP weights (or adjusts) the exit polls so that their tabulations of vote preference match reality. This is a long-time standard practice for the national network exit polls. This is fine. The problem comes in when one wishes to examine the discrepancy between the unweighted Election Day exit polls and the final results. Not only is this the discrepancy that is at the source of the controversy, the unweighted exits are also not available to the public. Thus, interested parties have no means of examining this highly unusual discrepancy.
The two best articles I have found on this subject come from the already linked Blumenthal at Mystery Pollster and UPenn professor Steven Freeman. Both come to a similar conclusion. While charges of election fraud based on a discrepancy between exit polls and tabulated results are premature, the discrepancy is unusual enough and the subject matter important enough that the complete unweighted data and methodology must be released for further investigation. To again quote from Blumenthal:Attention Keith Olbermann!: You want to "continue to cover [voting angst] with all prudent speed?" Excellent. Here is one piece of the puzzle you can help solve. The good news is, you don't need to find some "Deep Throat" informant or submit a Freedom of Information Act request. Just call up NBC's polling director and ask. OK, true, you may need to convince a few colleagues at the other networks to do the same. Nonetheless, the networks own and control the NEP exit poll data, so I'm sure they'll gladly help "debunk" this controversy by making the relevant data available. Right? Indeed. While we as a Party have a lot of important work to tackle, right now this work is certainly of importance. We must put pressure on the networks to release their data if there is any hope of removing the cloud of suspicion hanging over this issue. Be polite and contact them about this today. Remember, the networks are supposed to be serving the public interest, or else they would not have any rights to use public airwaves. Clearly, this is an issue that falls under the domain of the public interest, and as such this is information that should be available to everyone.