Who Really Won?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Exit Polls To See the Light Of Day?

This week, the firms that produced exit polls of voters last November will tell the news organizations that paid them what, if anything, they think went wrong.

The surveys of voters as they left polling places led to widespread speculation on Election Day that Sen. John Kerry was sweeping President Bush out of office. But whether voters will ever know what happened remains unclear.

Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for the six-member media consortium that paid for the exit polls, says representatives from ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC and the Associated Press want to review the report before making any decisions about what to make public.

The behind-closed-doors delivery of the report could come as soon as today. Because the report's conclusions might not be made public, the report is unlikely to appease critics who say the six media companies have moved too slowly to release information collected in the exit polls and have said too little about possible problems with those surveys.

"It's amazing to me that there's even a possibility that the report won't be released to the public," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "There was a major national controversy involving the integrity of the news organizations and of the polling firms involved."

Any dissatisfaction with the handling of this week's report would add one more complaint to a growing list of grievances some journalism experts have about the way the news media report about polls. They say that last year, as during every presidential election for at least the past four decades, the media were too obsessed with meaningless changes in polls.