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View Diary: The Dummy's Guide to EXIT polls (48 comments)

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  •  Nope (none)
    The weighted closing time exit polls are better than the early polls, but they are still not very accurate.  This data is not precise enough to be useful in non-blowout races.  Again, this is nothing new.

    This is simply not true.  You don't need vote tallies to make exit polls accurate.  You only need an accurate idea of demographic turnout and a large sample size.

    This is what statistics has been developed for, it can predict the election quite accurately unless it is very close unless the pollster really screws up or the vote tally is wrong.

    --

    Timothy Klein

    by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 12:35:07 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Re: Nope (none)
      "This is simply not true.  You don't need vote tallies to make exit polls accurate."

      I'm sure this is true in the hypothetical world you are imagining.

      However, in this world, it has been untrue in election after election after election.

      ---

      "This is what statistics has been developed for, it can predict the election quite accurately unless it is very close unless the pollster really screws up or the vote tally is wrong."

      Or unless the exit polls are explicitly designed to rely on actual voting returns in non-blowout elections...

      But, at least it's good to finally know what statistics was developed for.

      •  Sigh (none)
        I'm sure this is true in the hypothetical world you are imagining.

        However, in this world, it has been untrue in election after election after election.

        Think about what you are saying.  Once you begin to inter-mingle exit polls and actual voting data, you are relying an the soundness of the vote.  If the vote is suspect, the exit poll is suspect.

        Fact:  Exit polls are used quite successfully outside the United States to gauge the fairness of an election.  Germans use exit polls to call their week-long, manual election count, days before the official tally, and they have never made a mistake.

        Exit polls are a fine tool.  The weighted, closing exit polling data we have in this election is very far off the mark.  If the American exit pollster needs to use the actual vote tally to validate his polls, then the pollster is damn fool, and does not know his job (or is a complete cheapskate, and is underfunding the task).  We have all the stastitical tools we need to call an election with exit polling alone (assuming that our vote tally is not hopelessly FUBAR, which is a generous assumption).

        Those are the only two choices we have this election cycle:  the pollster is an idiot, or the vote tally is wrong.

        I, unlike you, am completely unwilling to just shrug and say "exit polls are dodgy."  Because there are many examples of them not being at all skewed.  This is a question we need to answer, not sweep under the rug.

        It is nowhere near as neat as you think it is.

        --

        Timothy Klein

        by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 12:52:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Re: Sigh (none)
          "Think about what you are saying.  Once you begin to inter-mingle exit polls and actual voting data, you are relying an the soundness of the vote.  If the vote is suspect, the exit poll is suspect."

          I agree with you entirely.

          "Fact:  Exit polls are used quite successfully outside the United States to gauge the fairness of an election.  Germans use exit polls to call their week-long, manual election count, days before the official tally, and they have never made a mistake."

          Perhaps they are not using exit polls that are designed to rely on actual election returns, the way the Mitofsky exit polls are.

          The Mitofsky exit polls are conducted by the networks to aid in calling state races early.  They were not designed to be of use in detecting fraud.

          "If the American exit pollster needs to use the actual vote tally to validate his polls, then the pollster is damn fool, and does not know his job (or is a complete cheapskate, and is underfunding the task)."

          Wrong on all counts.  You simply don't understand who is commissioning these exit polls, and for what purpose.

          "We have all the stastitical tools we need to call an election with exit polling alone..."

          Would these be statistical wrenches or statistical hammers.

          (As an aside, I find the people who have the worst understanding of political polling tend to be folks familiar with statistics who have no experience with polling.  Sam Wang, this year, was a laugh riot with pretty much everything he said.  The statistics crowd thinks polling is only about math, when it's actually half math and half something else.)

          If you'd like to commission an exit poll in 2008 that would be designed to catch fraud instead of calling races on TV, be my guest.

          It'd run you many many millions of dollars, and wouldn't be any use in an election this close, but I'd still sign your petition.

          •  Who (none)
            Perhaps they are not using exit polls that are designed to rely on actual election returns, the way the Mitofsky exit polls are.

            They are commissioned by the German media, just like the American exit polls.  I fail to see a reason why Americans would be so lazy as to have to rely on the vote tally, or are unable to fund the proper exercise, as the German's are.

            The Mitofsky exit polls are conducted by the networks to aid in calling state races early.  They were not designed to be of use in detecting fraud.

            They may not be designed to catch fraud, but that doesn't mean they won't.  But I am not talking about fraud.  I am talking about vote tallying problems, that may or may not be fraud.  Don't jump to conclusions.  There were lots of tallying problems in FL 2000, but not necessarily fraud.

            (Interstingly, that exit poll was right, Bush lost.  It was huge vote tallying problems that gave him the victory).

            But an abberation here or there could be shrugged  off, even if you accept the claim that the Mitofsky poll can't call a close election (which I don't, and we can verify that, as the methods they use are secret).

            But we don't have an abberation this election:  we have a systemic foul up across many states and counties.  If the exit poll just had some kind of sampling error, it would cut both ways: it did not.  The discrepancy was in Bush's favor every time, so many times as to be beyond the realm of just sampling error.

            --

            Timothy Klein

            by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 01:21:09 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Re: Who (none)
              "But an abberation here or there could be shrugged  off, even if you accept the claim that the Mitofsky poll can't call a close election"

              The Mitofsky poll is actually pretty good at calling close elections, precisely because it relies on the actual returns.

              ---

              I won't comment on the German exit polls, because unlike the Mitofsky polls, I don't have detailed knowledge of how they work.  And unlike you, I don't like to form dogmatic opinions about things I don't understand.

              ---

              "If the exit poll just had some kind of sampling error, it would cut both ways: it did not.  The discrepancy was in Bush's favor every time, so many times as to be beyond the realm of just sampling error."

              I'll try this one final time, and then leave you be, as you seem to have considerably more enthusiasm than either understanding, or the desire to achieve understanding.

              By design of the methodology, the Mitofsky exit poll numbers are not intented to be reliable before the actual returns are mixed in.  The numbers you cite as the "exit poll" numbers are not the final numbers.  They are not intended for forming the type of conclusions you have jumped to.  

              You are taking unfinished numbers and using to them to form erroneous conclusions.

              These unfinished numbers have been unreliable in every past election they were used in.

              The survey's methodology is all about producing good finished numbers, and it succeeds quite nicely.

              I'm sorry if you can't get your mind around these concepts.

              •  Over (none)
                I won't comment on the German exit polls, because unlike the Mitofsky polls, I don't have detailed knowledge of how they work.  And unlike you, I don't like to form dogmatic opinions about things I don't understand.

                Why do you have to start behaving like a child?  I have no dogma here.

                By design of the methodology, the Mitofsky exit poll numbers are not intented to be reliable before the actual returns are mixed in.  The numbers you cite as the "exit poll" numbers are not the final numbers.  They are not intended for forming the type of conclusions you have jumped to.

                To which I say bullshit.  I know that is what the claim is on the Mitofsky poll -- I have never seen any valid reason for doing it, and the pollsters won't explain.

                But nevermind.  I'm through talking to you.  If you can't debate without getting childish, I'm done.

                --

                Timothy Klein

                by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 02:02:22 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Re: Over (none)
                  "I have no dogma here."

                  Sure you do.  You have a faith-like devotion to the idea that the poll closing time exit poll numbers have some magical meaning that the pollsters themselves explicitly disavow.

                  You cling to this idea without supporting evidence because it leads to your preferred conclusion.  That's dogma.

                  "To which I say bullshit.  I know that is what the claim is on the Mitofsky poll -- I have never seen any valid reason for doing it, and the pollsters won't explain."

                  If you had some knowledge of the issues involved in polling, you'd understand the reasons intuitively.

                  Failing that, you could find the reasons explained explicitly, cogently, and repeatedly on this thread.

      •  Also (none)
        Or unless the exit polls are explicitly designed to rely on actual voting returns in non-blowout elections...

        If the pollster makes this assertion (that he needs votes to be sure of his prediction in something closer than 5%), then he is either: incompetent, lying, or being very cheap.

        But, at least it's good to finally know what statistics was developed for.

        Funny.  But think about it.  There is an entire field of mathematics devoted to making predictions based on random samples of a population.  We have actually gotten very, very good at it.  Life-or-death and multi-million dollar decisions are made all the time in this country using this science -- it works.  The primary difficulty of election polling -- figuring out who the electorate is going to be -- is gone on poll night:  the exit pollsters are talking to the electorate.

        There is no reason under the sun not to be able to get extremely accurate election predictions from exit polling, with the exception, perhaps, of cost.

        It is a complete cop-out to just pretend this is some really difficult to measure quantity -- it isn't -- or that we just got a bad sample this election -- we didn't.

        Again, either the polling firms employed by the media are so incompetent that they should be run out of business, or our vote tallying system is very screwed up.

        There is not a third choice here.

        --

        Timothy Klein

        by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 01:08:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Re: Also (none)
          "There is no reason under the sun not to be able to get extremely accurate election predictions from exit polling, with the exception, perhaps, of cost."

          There is no reason not to build a retractable dome over Minneapolis for use during the winter except for cost.

          ---

          And even if we had some kind of perfect exit poll that you fantasize over, it's still going to have a MOE that will render it useless for detecting fraud in an election as close as this one.

          "If the pollster makes this assertion (that he needs votes to be sure of his prediction in something closer than 5%), then he is either: incompetent, lying, or being very cheap."

          You fundamentally misunderstand the issue here.  It's not that the exit poll is so lousy that he needs the actual returns to be sure.

          It's that the survey is reliant on actual returns by design.

          I fail to see how this is so difficult to get your mind around.

          "Again, either the polling firms employed by the media are so incompetent that they should be run out of business, or our vote tallying system is very screwed up."

          No, it's neither of the alternatives you propose.

          The pollster is conducting his survery exactly as his client, the networks, have requested.  Doing it this way serves the clients' needs quite well.

          If you'd like a survery conducted for different purposes, I'm sure there are many pollsters out there you could hire.

          •  Yup, (none)
            Somebody is fundamentally misunderstanding the issue here, and I don't think it is me.

            You fundamentally misunderstand the issue here.  It's not that the exit poll is so lousy that he needs the actual returns to be sure.

            It's that the survey is reliant on actual returns by design.

            There is no good reason to design a poll this way.  Indeed, once he starts "correcting" his data, it is not clear that what he is doing is even valid.  The company does not and will not publish it's methods:  to be completely honest, I don't believe them when they say they design the poll to use vote tallies.  I say they are full of shit.  And they are unwilling to say what they are doing -- it is black magic, for all we know.

            On the MOE: totally wrong.  With a large enough sample size, it is possible to get the MOE down to very small sizes (easily under a 1%).  BYU does this every election.  MOE is not an issue except in super close states, like FL.  It is not an issue this election.  Most of the states that had odd shifts from Kerry to Bush show change outside of MOE.

            --

            Timothy Klein

            by teece on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 01:58:44 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Re: Yup, (none)
              "There is no good reason to design a poll this way.  Indeed, once he starts "correcting" his data, it is not clear that what he is doing is even valid."

              He is not "correcting" his data.

              All pollsters do some form of weighting with their data.  The genius of the Mitofsky methodology is that it uses actual election returns to do the weighting.

              And if you want to argue that this weighting makes the Mitofsky survey not "valid" for detecting fraud or irregularities in a reasonably close election, you'd finally have said something that wasn't utterly inane.

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