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The latest on the 2008 presidential race exit polls
nirajan | November 4, 2008 at 10:13 amby
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The networks will follow strict rules Tuesday on projecting election results, examining not only the data from exit polls but actual vote tabulation and turnout data.
NBC — which keeps its decision desk isolated from the calls made by competing networks — will call a winner only once its statisticians conclude that the chance of an error is less than 1 in 200. And no calls will be made until all the polls have closed in a state.
Extreme measures are being taken to ensure that early information from exit polls does not leak out, as it did in 2004, when the first wave of surveys showing John Kerry in the lead rocketed through cyberspace.
For much of the day, only a small group will have access to the exit polling, which is being conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool, a consortium of the networks and The Associated Press.
Exit poll information in the hands of trained professionals is perfectly fine," said Sam Feist, CNN's political director. "Exit poll information in the hands of the general public, who may not understand what it means or stands for, can be dangerous."
That's because exit polls are designed to provide a demographic portrait of voters, not to predict the winner of a close race. The early waves of data can be especially misleading because they do not necessarily reflect an accurate sample of the electorate.
This year, there's another factor: the huge surge in early voting.
To measure those voters, Edison/Mitofsky has been doing an extensive telephone survey in the past week, focusing on the 18 states with the highest concentration of absentee and early voting.