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Using Exit Polling to Inform Civic
         Engagem    ent
Allan McCutcheon, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln
        Joe Lenski,...
The National Election Pool (NEP)
Brief History of Exit Polls

• By early 1960’s, major networks identified
  “key” or “tag” precincts to “call” elections
•...
Purpose of Exit Polls

• Projection: provide evidence regarding
  prior expectations (pre-election polls)
• Context: provi...
Exit Poll Methodology

• Actual voters
  – Not “eligible” voters
  – Not “likely” voters
• About behavior
  – Immediate – ...
2008 Exit Poll Questionnaire
Sampling

• Research sample

                    Research Sample
Sampling

• Research sample
• “Quick count” sample
                         Research Sample


                           Q...
Sampling

• Research sample
• “Quick count” sample
• Exit poll sample     Research Sample


                              ...
Forecasting and Election Projection

• Exit polls: first data in on election day
  – Helps us understand probable directio...
Information for the Public

• Exit polls promote transparency, trust, and a
  sense of civic engagement for electorate
• E...
Information for Scholars

• Exit poll data are released to major
  academic archives for research analysis
• Much has been...
Information for Policy Makers

• Who votes and, importantly, who does not
• Use appears to be fairly new/recent
  – Center...
Education Gap in Voting
                             2008 National Election Pool

40



30

                              ...
Information for Policy Makers

                    Figure 2. Predicted Probability of Voting Obama:
                      ...
Civic and Social Engagement

• Declining civic engagement
  – Voting and interest
  – Life cycle or cohort?
     • Is this...
Conclusions

• Exit polls are a relatively recent “invention”
• Created to help forecast elections and
  interpret the obs...
National Civic Summit - Allan McCutcheon and Joe Lenski
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National Civic Summit - Allan McCutcheon and Joe Lenski

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National Civic Summit - Allan McCutcheon and Joe Lenski

  1. 1. Using Exit Polling to Inform Civic Engagem ent Allan McCutcheon, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Joe Lenski, Edison Research
  2. 2. The National Election Pool (NEP)
  3. 3. Brief History of Exit Polls • By early 1960’s, major networks identified “key” or “tag” precincts to “call” elections • CBS used exit polls in the 1967 Kentucky gubernatorial contest • By late 1970’s/early 1980’s CBS, NBC, ABC all used exit polling • Early 1990’s Voter News Service (VNS) • 2003-present National Election Pool (NEP)
  4. 4. Purpose of Exit Polls • Projection: provide evidence regarding prior expectations (pre-election polls) • Context: provide an interpretation the election outcome (public/media) • To provide transparency in electoral outcomes • To provide information for scholars and policy makers
  5. 5. Exit Poll Methodology • Actual voters – Not “eligible” voters – Not “likely” voters • About behavior – Immediate – not recall/ memory issues • Purpose is transparent to respondents – Purpose is immediately understood
  6. 6. 2008 Exit Poll Questionnaire
  7. 7. Sampling • Research sample Research Sample
  8. 8. Sampling • Research sample • “Quick count” sample Research Sample Quick Count Sample
  9. 9. Sampling • Research sample • “Quick count” sample • Exit poll sample Research Sample Quick Count Sample Exit Poll Sample
  10. 10. Forecasting and Election Projection • Exit polls: first data in on election day – Helps us understand probable direction of election day – Helps us understand the thinking of the voters • Real vote counts – “Quick counts” soon after polls close – Actual vote tallies: often quite late in evening
  11. 11. Information for the Public • Exit polls promote transparency, trust, and a sense of civic engagement for electorate • Exit polls enable people in the media to provide explanations that make sense • Exit polls are a feature of open democracies – Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany,Ireland, Macedonia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, United States, and more
  12. 12. Information for Scholars • Exit poll data are released to major academic archives for research analysis • Much has been learned about who votes, why they vote, and why they voted the way they did • Much has been learned about the methodology of exit polling
  13. 13. Information for Policy Makers • Who votes and, importantly, who does not • Use appears to be fairly new/recent – Center for Information & Research on Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Tufts • Exit polls can inform us about which groups are under-represented at the polls • 2008: younger people better represented than in the past, lower educated people less well represented
  14. 14. Education Gap in Voting 2008 National Election Pool 40 30 % of Population 20 % of voters 10 0 Less than HS HS Diploma Some College College Degree Post Graduate CIRCLE Report, 2009
  15. 15. Information for Policy Makers Figure 2. Predicted Probability of Voting Obama: Interaction of Race by Education Anglo Voters Hispanic Voters 1 Some College College Graduate Some College College Graduate or less or more or less or more .8 .74 .67 .6 *p<.05 .44 .38 .4 .2 0 » Source: Bautista et al., forthcoming
  16. 16. Civic and Social Engagement • Declining civic engagement – Voting and interest – Life cycle or cohort? • Is this changing? • Declining social engagement – “Bowling alone,” Robert Putnam – Declining volunteerism and participation • Uniformly distributed across population?
  17. 17. Conclusions • Exit polls are a relatively recent “invention” • Created to help forecast elections and interpret the observed voting patterns • Scholars now use them to help better understand the electorate • Recently, exit poll data has used to help policy makers and civic organizers better understand who does, and does not, participate

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