Speculation Abounds on Bizarre Exit Polls

November 4, 2004

Powerline Blog considers and deconstructs a number of theories concerning the origin of the bogus exit polling data that rocked all of our “worlds” throughout Election Day. As Powerline notes, the exit polls “were ridiculously off the mark.”

Powerline also says:

It seems likely that Democrats ran the exit polling process, and deliberately generated bad data to create momentum for the Kerry campaign. This much, I think is a reasonable inference. It is also reasonable to suspect that the same people who created the bad data leaked it to Democratic bloggers as part of a strategy of depressing Republican turnout. The bloggers, however, were innocent participants in the deception–if, in fact, it was a deception. I would think there should be an investigation, not by the government but by the networks who paid for the production of what turned out to be bad information.

Personally, I don’t know if Democrats ran the exit polling process, but I’m sure liberals did, which is essentially the same thing. And there is very little doubt that those in control leaked it. How else would it have gotten out? And why would they, other than to suppress Republican turnout. But I definitely agree that we should keep the government out of this and encourage the networks to investigate. Government investigations of this sort are invariably too slow and laborious to be effective and deemed too partisan to emerge with sufficient credibility. It’s time for the networks — some of whom are already on the ropes for their overt attempts to influence the outcome of the litigation — to redeem themselves, so give them a shot at it first.

As for my personal opinion as to the anomalies in the exit polling I have the following thoughts. I remember watching presidential election results when I was very young and marveling at how these geniuses at the networks were able to project so accurately the ultimate outcomes of the various state elections so early in the evening, with such a small percentage of the votes tabulated. I remember it vividly in many cases, especially when my preferred candidate was projected to lose in some cases even when the electronic election board showed him ahead in votes already counted. At some point I learned that the news organizations were not, in fact, clairvoyant, but that they had access to sophisticated exit polling data that enabled them to extrapolate eventual vote counts.

Now, for those of you laughing derisively at those of us who were a tad shaken by the leaked rumors that President Bush was projected to lose in many of the swing states — and even some decidedly red states — understand this: these presidential exit polls, from the time I was a little kid, had proven to be extraordinarily accurate. So I offer no apologies for being nervous throughout the day, except to say that I should have known better than to allow my historical trust for exit polls to remain, given the mainstream media’s transformation into one huge Democrat 527 organization.

Having said that I also knew something wasn’t adding up. As uncomfortable as the exit polling data made me, I was aware that in almost every poll — not just a majority of them — the president went into election day with a three point lead: 51% to 48%. I also knew what I had known for three years: President Bush has been a phenomenal wartime president and we’re still in a war. No part of my being could conceive of a Bush defeat this year — it was just unthinkable.

Weighing against that mild comfort was the 2000 election. Back then President Bush had been leading in the polls decisively too, except for Zogby, but lost the popular vote by a half a million. (I won’t get into vote fraud and suppression of the Florida turnout due to early calls, etc., here.) So I was thinking that pre-election polls, as distinguished from exit polls, may not be that accurate after all. Add to this the widespread speculation that polling is no longer is accurate as it once was because of changes in our society: cell phones, answering machines, and residents gun shy about answering the phone at all due to telemarketing harassment.

But, on the other hand again, I also knew that President Bush’s lead, while within the margin of error on most polls, had been consistent for some time. So I was comforted by his persistent lead, which I didn’t think could be neutered by reference to any margin of error. If that had been the case, Kerry would have been leading half the time. And I was comforted by the unanimity of the pollsters showing Bush ahead in pre-election polls. That simply couldn’t have been true, especially by 3 percentage points for all of them, if he weren’t significantly ahead. And we’re talking likely voters here, remember.

As it turns out, the pre-election polls were strikingly vindicated. They couldn’t have been more on the mark, as President Bush did win the popular vote by a 51% to 48% margin, the last time I checked.

What does that tell us? Simply that pre-election polling is still a remarkably reliable science. From which we extrapolate what? That exit polling is even more reliable — UNLESS IT IS SOMEHOW TAINTED. Which leads me to what conclusion? That there was serious funny business going on with these exit polls. Someone somewhere in the process deliberately manipulated either the polling process, or the selection of participants, or something. With the pre-election polls as accurate as they were, it’s virtually inconceivable that the superior exit polls could have been off like they were. Something smells very rotten.

I used to lack the requisite cynicism to imagine that any major media organizations were so corrupt on issues of such magnitude. Not that I was naive, but I didn’t believe, for example, that as biased as CBS is, it would knowingly participate in an overt fraud. But this year it did with Dan Rather and the forged documents scandal. Dan Rather at least was an accessory after the fact in that fraud, as was CBS for enabling him for so long. This elongated investigation CBS initiated does not get it off the hook. The potential damage had already been done.

And we’ve all been witnessing how the New York Times has been collaborating with the DNC to oust President Bush — and I’m not just talking about their editorial page. And we saw what the networks early call did to suppress GOP voter turnout in Florida’s panhandle in 2000. And does anyone think the DNC, run by Clinton thug Terry McAuliffe would not do anything it believed necessary to win?

Despite all this the plan, if it was a plan, may have backfired. Conservative talk radio went into overdrive to urge Republicans not to be discouraged by the exit polling data and to vote. The exit polling rumors might have just caused untold numbers of potential voters to become actual voters — as they contemplated with horror the notion of the antiwar John Kerry ascending to the position of commander in chief.

But none of this changes the fact that something very wrong went on with those exit polls, whether born of egregious negligence or maliciously intentional conduct. I hope we can get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, let’s savor our victory.