Down with Exit Polls

Poll guru Nate Silver has a Letterman-style countdown today: the top ten reasons why you should ignore the exit polls. Sure, they give the networks something to talk about as the election night tension starts to build, but according to Silver they have a large margin of error, overstate the Democratic share, and were particularly bad in this year’s primaries. Exit polls tend not to adjust for early voters, miss late voters, and in the case of “leaked” results, may not even be the genuine article. Silver cites an independent study commissioned by CNN following the disastrous 2000 election: “News organizations staged a collective drag race on the crowded highway of democracy, recklessly endangering the electoral process, the political life of the country, and their own credibility, all for reasons that may be conceptually flawed and commercially questionable.” Whoa.