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NEP to Hold Exit-Polling Data Until 6 p.m.

Jan 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Exit-polling data collected by the National Election Pool in the future will not be delivered to its NEP clients — chief among them the six national news organizations that fund and run the NEP — until 6 p.m. (ET) to limit the possibilities of what transpired with the presidential race last November, when early leaks of incomplete data raised misleading expectations that Democratic Sen. John Kerry would be elected president.

An internal review conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the companies that handle the polling for the consortium that consists of the news divisions of ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press, concluded the 2004 national election polls were “not as accurate” as past polls.

The vote for Sen. Kerry was overestimated in 26 states, while the vote for President Bush was overestimated in only four states. The report attributed that phenomenon largely to Kerry voters being more open to the exit poll process than Bush voters. It also said that such things as weather conditions affected the quality of data by lowering exit poll completion rates in some precincts.

However, the report, posted Wednesday, said the exit poll data did not lead to any incorrect projections of winners.

The report said the exit poll accuracy can be improved by such things as encouraging more cooperation from election officials who control access to voters leaving voting locations and by improving the hiring, training and monitoring of the interviewers.

The most high-profile of the problems last Election Day were the result of misuse by Internet sites and bloggers to whom the early exit poll data, which was incomplete, was leaked and presented as a hint of things to come as the evening wore on.

Sheldon Gawiser, NBC’s director of elections coverage and chairman of the consortium’s steering committee, said that while withholding the exit-polling results from clients until polls start closing on the East Coast will complicate news executives’ planning of Election Day and evening coverage, it will limit the possibilities that unauthorized outlets can wreak widespread mischief with the data.