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Exit Poll Madness - Analyst Steve Freeman & Company Offer False Choice
by Lynn Landes
(This article got interesting if not nice emails from Dave Dodge and Kathy Dopp, but others didn't agree with them.)
Beware of exit polls and the analysts who study them. These folks would have us believe that exit polls tell the gospel truth. They even quote the duplicitous toe-sucking Dick Morris to make their case. "Exit polls are almost never wrong," Morris writes. The man is a known creep.
Exit polls are completely
non-transparent and unverifiable. They're as bad as voting by machine,
absentee, or early. There's no meaningful oversight to either enterprise.
Worse yet, a belief in exit polls is a trap that's had tragic consequences for
elections around the world.
There's growing evidence that
exit polls sponsored by the Bush Administration and the International Republican
Institute were used to support rigged elections in
Although the elections in
these countries were conducted using paper ballots and (mostly) hand counts, the
counting took place behind closed doors and the results took weeks to announce.
What did our corporate news media report to the world on the Election Night for
these countries? Not the actual vote tallies, but instead the corporate news
media jubilantly announced exit polls results. Most people didn't seem to
notice the difference. And that's thanks to people like
"Exit polls are highly
accurate," claims Freeman in a recent
report. Where did he get that
So, why does Freeman have such faith in these polls? Even John Zogby said that the non-transparency of the work done by Warren Mitofsky and Edison Media Research was highly unethical. And Mitofsky himself has issued nonsensical statements about the 2004 election results. Does Freeman want to believe the polls because it helps prove a point he's trying to make - that voting results were rigged? There's other data that he could use in that regard. Or, is there something more at play here? We've had more than one instance of the guys in white hats (i.e., Dr. Roy Saltman and the folks at MIT) doing good work initially and then going over to the dark side. It's almost like a bait and switch kind of thing.
I called Professor Freeman to inquire. I was polite and businesslike, but the conversation lasted less than a minute. "Don't talk to me. Don't contact me. Don't speak to me again," he said. I was a bit stunned. I had obviously hit a nerve. Apparently, the professor is not accustomed to having his research methods questioned. It's an interesting attitude for a scientist. Or, is it his corporate background that kicked in? (See http://www.appliedresearch.us/sf/) Anyway, he hit a nerve with me as well. I gave him a day to get back to me with an explanation for why he has so much faith in the networks' exit polls. He didn't bother.
Freeman gives his readers a set of false choices - either believe the polls or believe the election results. He doesn't offer the third alternative - don't believe either. Sure, I think that Bush lost the election. But, I'm not going to be intellectually dishonest in order to prove it. I'm not going to give total credibility to exit poll data from the networks' completely non-transparent National Election Pool and then turn around and give no credibility to election results from our equally non-transparent election system. Both should be treated with equal scrutiny, if not complete contempt.
But, Freeman isn't alone. There's a virtual cottage industry of analysts gorging themselves on exit poll data as if it were real. What's going on here? Is it just a bunch of well-intentioned but sensitive scientists trying to prove a point based on unverifiable data? Or, is it something else? Are we being set up to have total faith in a completely bogus system of exit polls around the world? I have learned that in this business a person canít be too suspicious.
One thing is certain, if these so-called analysts think they can protect our right to vote through the use of unverifiable exit polls, they're delusional. Even if they get a third party to conduct a more transparent exit poll than what Mitofsky conducts (which even I've thought about), it still cannot take the place of free and fair elections.
By-the-way, the right wingers
of this world aren't the only ones who use exit polls in nefarious ways. Last
year's Venezuelan elections were buffeted by competing exit polls from the left
and the right. At the end of the day I wonder if anyone noticed that the
ballots were never counted. That's right. President Chavez ordered up his new
touchscreen voting machines complete with ballot printers, but then never
bothered to count the ballots. There were some spot audits and quick counts
according to the
And, therein lies the unavoidable truth. The only poll that counts is the counting of the ballots... at your local poll on Election Day. Seeing is believing. Be there or be square, Professor Freeman.
Lynn Landes is one of the
nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. Readers
can find her articles at