AP Jumps Gun on Calling Missouri Results

Feb 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Associated Press, which partners with the broadcast and cable news organizations in the National Election Project that collects data on election nights, fumbled its call on who would win the tight Missouri Democratic primary late Tuesday night. Shortly after 11 p.m. EST, the AP said New York Sen. Hillary Clinton would win.
The other members of the NEP did not make the same mistake. (The Wall Street Journal, however, e-mailed a news alert at 11:11 p.m. that was headlined: “Clinton Is Projected to Win Missouri.” It did not cite the source of its characterization.)
At 12:32 a.m., with some 68% of the precincts reporting in what has become a bellwether state, The AP withdrew the Clinton call. At about 2:48 a.m., the AP awarded the state to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, according to its own account of the sequence of events.
When asked how the AP’s internal processes and guidelines might be changed to protect against such missteps in the future, an AP spokesman told TelevisionWeek Wednesday: “First we have to find out what happened.”
The NEP members all get the same vote totals and exit polling at the same time, but each has its own decision desk that chooses independently when to make projections.
A polling executive at a network who declined to be identified said they were surprised by the AP call for Sen. Clinton, knowing how tight the race was throughout the night and knowing that precincts that might lean more toward Sen. Obama, such as St. Louis, had not yet been counted.
“It didn’t make me want to go, ‘Me, too,’” said the polling executive.
Meanwhile, according to preliminary national data from Nielsen Media Research, ABC News’ five hours of Super Tuesday coverage, which began at 8 p.m. EST, averaged 5.26 million viewers. CBS News’ four hours of coverage began at 9 p.m., following a repeat of “NCIS,” and averaged 4.69 million viewers. NBC News did an hour on the primaries starting at 10 p.m., after a two-hour “The Biggest Loser: Couples,” and averaged 5.58 million viewers.
Ratings for cable news coverage will be available later.


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