Exit Polls Lousy Predictors
Somebody, whether Drudge or some other site, will likely leak the election results sometime this afternoon. While they’re impossible to ignore, you should do exactly that.
Rasmussen reminds us:
The bottom line is that in every state we polled–Colorado, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia– Democrats are a lot more eager to take exit polls than Republicans. In five of the six states, a majority of Democrats say they would be Very Likely to participate in the exit polling process. At the same time, in five of the six states, fewer than 40% of Republicans would be willing to do the same. In every state, Republicans are at least twice as likely as Democrats to say that they are not at all willing to take an exit poll.
Unaffiliated voters tend to align more closely to Republicans in all six states in both willingness and unwillingness to participate in exit polls.
Bill McInturff, McCain’s pollster and my wife’s employer, makes the same point and adds additional points:
1. Historically, exit polls have tended to overstate the Democratic vote.
2. The exit polls are likely to overstate the Obama vote because Obama voters are more likely to participate in the exit poll.
3. The exit polls have tended to skew most Democratic in years where there is high turnout and high vote interest like in 1992 and 2004.
4. It is not just the national exit poll that skews Democratic, but each of the state exit polls also suffers from the same Democratic leanings.
5. The results of the exit polls are also influenced by the demographics of the voters who conduct the exit polls.
So, the results will skew Democratic and give very wrong impressions. In 2000 and 2004, they incorrectly pointed to Democratic wins. In 2008, they will likely incorrectly point to an Obama landslide — or at least exaggerate the margin of victory in states that barely swing Democrat.
We’re all going to be hungry for information later in the day, especially after the perennial reports about long lines and huge turnout start trickling in. But we’re just going to have to wait for the returns.
UPDATE: Democrat Nate Silver issues essentially the same warning in Ten Reasons Why You Should Ignore Exit Polls.