Polling Firms Blame Youth, Leaks for Errors; Critic Calls for End to Exit Surveys

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 20, 2005 | Go to article overview

Polling Firms Blame Youth, Leaks for Errors; Critic Calls for End to Exit Surveys


Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The companies that conducted Election Day exit polls for major news organizations said yesterday that bad polling procedures caused them to overstate John Kerry's vote in key states that President Bush won.

In a report to explain how early exit polls could be so far off from the actual results, the two firms blamed their problems on youthful, inexperienced poll takers, more motivated Democrats, early leaks of raw numbers by bloggers and a failure to follow interviewing rules.

But an independent pollster said yesterday that the firms still had not told the full story behind the error-filled polls and questioned whether exit polling should be used to project the final outcome of an election.

"I'm not sure we're at full disclosure yet. An awful lot still needs to be explained," said pollster John Zogby, who expressed deep skepticism about the report's explanations and excuses. "The sum total of what we got today is enough to suggest that there should never be exit polls again."

Among the explanations offered by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two polling firms that were hired by a consortium of news organizations: Mr. Kerry's supporters were more likely than Mr. Bush's voters to agree to participate in exit poll interviews.

Polling errors were found to be made more frequently by younger interviewers, about half of whom were 34 or younger.

Early preliminary polling data collected during Election Day that was not supposed to be made public was leaked to blogger Web sites and suggested a wider Kerry lead than he actually had. Interviewers in many precincts were kept 50 feet or more away from voting places, potentially skewing the results toward Kerry supporters who were eager to participate in exit polling interviews. …

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Polling Firms Blame Youth, Leaks for Errors; Critic Calls for End to Exit Surveys
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