Media Use Exit Polls to Help Project Winners

Posted November 6th, 2012 at 6:30 pm (UTC-5)
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One term that will be heard frequently throughout media coverage of the president election is “exit poll.”

It is the first tangible taste of how the election may turn out, but should not be mistaken for official results.

Professional polltsters stand outside voting stations across the country and immediately ask randomly selected voters for whom they cast a ballot. The pollsters also make random telephone calls to get statistics on early voting.

The major U.S. television and radio networks and the Associated Press receive the initial results about one hour before the first polls close on Election Day and use the results to project winners.

The polls are also used to show how states voted and how different demographics, such as gender and age groups, cast their ballots.

The pollsters are anxious to stress that any numbers reported as exit polls before the networks get them are phony and not to be believed.

Some critics of letting news organizations release exit polls say the numbers can be misleading and discourage people who have not yet voted.

Backers say the data are important to track how and why voters cast ballots they way they did.