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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Get ready for those election results. And those exit polls.

It's Tuesday, folks, which means that it's election day for those of us in the USA. Every seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs, along with one-third of the seats in the Senate. Not to mention a slew of governorships, state and local ballot measures, and other races.

The last polls we've heard sound pretty good for the Democrats, but since the accuracy of polling always goes into the toilet at the last minute, I'm not holding my breath.

In just over 13 hours (as I write this), polls will start closing and talking heads on local and national television and radio will start telling you about exit polls even before the 'real' election results start coming in. Lest you get too excited or too depressed as you watch or listen, here are some words of wisdom about exit polls from Walter Shapiro:

The most important thing to remember as the anchors invoke the exit polls as holy writ is that there are no surveys whatsoever for individual House races. That's zilch, zero, zed. In short, we will not have on Election Night any reliable gauge to tell us for certain why voters made their decisions in contested House races. All the networks will be able to provide is a national survey that makes no distinction between the 375 districts where the outcome of the House race was preordained and the roughly 60 hard-fought contests. Needless to say, this limitation in the data will not prevent anyone from making sweeping generalizations about the meaning of the 2006 elections. But it might prevent you from believing them.

Often lost in the wrangling over exit polls is what crude instruments they actually are. When it comes to divining the hidden motivations of voters, exit polls are about as reliable as the shotgun that Porky Pig uses to go hunting. The list of questions has to be brief because most voters will not stand around on a chilly November day, with an illegally parked car or a squalling 2-year-old, answering a five-page questionnaire. Instead, this year the exit polls will be asking blunder-buss questions like, "How important was same-sex marriage for your vote for the House?" or "How important was the war in Iraq for your vote for the House?" Useful data -- especially since the only people polled are actual voters -- but far from the last word on the 2006 elections.

Via Salon.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:35 AM | Get permalink




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