TRUTH LEFT OUT: Exit Poll Raw Data Would be Useful to Notable Experts, Which USA TODAY Fails to Mention
Congressman wants 'raw' exit poll dataBy Mark Memmott, USA TODAY
...Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday that he doesn't know whether the information would answer questions about whether problems at the polls led to miscounts in the presidential election. Most polling experts who have studied exit polls doubt the data would be of use.
Well, Mr. Memmot, there was, in fact, one expert who spoke at the congressional hearing yesterday who you have failed to mention. His name is Dr. Steven F. Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania. He had managed to collect some raw data -- only because of a computer glitch which allowed his collegue to screen save this data on the CNN website. It was soon changed on CNN.com to more accurately reflect the actual results. As Freeman states:
Another pollster, Mark Blumenthal has also stated that the raw data would be very useful. In response to Freeman's research, he writes (yellow bolding added by yours truly):
For this report, I use data that apparently are based solely on subjects surveyed leaving the polling place. These data were reportedly not meant to be released directly to the public, and were reportedly available to late evening Election Night viewers only because a computer glitch prevented NEP from making updates sometime around 8:30 p.m. that night. They were collected by Jonathon Simon, a former political survey research analyst, and are corroborated by saved screen shots. I happened to have sixteen exit poll internet pages stored in my computer memory, and in each case, his figures are identical to mine. The numbers are also roughly consistent with those released elsewhere...
(from The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy: Part I
- November 10 & 23, 2004)
I believe Freeman's data are worthy of our attention for two reasons: The most important is the suggestion by Warren Mitofsky (here and here) and others associated with the exit polls that the discrepancy may result from what survey methodologists call "differential non-response." That is, Republicans were theoretically more likely to refuse to be surveyed than Democrats. That hypothesis, if proven true, could have important consequences for all political surveys.
Another reason is the continuing speculation about problems in the actual count. Whatever we think about the plausibility of the various conspiracy theories, a fuller presentation of the uncorrected exit poll should shed more light on the issue. It might even help restore some confidence in the actual count. I would think that the news organizations that own the data would see the public good that might result in putting the relevant tabulations and analyses into the public domain.
Finally, if Freeman's tabulations are wrong or misleading, the NEP can easily clear up any confusion by releasing the correct "before-closing-time" tabulations. Similarly, if Freeman is in error in his estimates of the statistical significance of the discrepancies, NEP can tell us more about the appropriate sampling error for the results in each state. Remember, Freeman's data are derived from results that were publicly released by CNN. Providing more information about the data CNN released and the sampling error associated with it would conform to the spirit (if not the letter) of the principles of disclosure of the National Council of Public Polls (NCPP): "to insure that pertinent information is disclosed concerning methods that were used so that consumers of surveys may assess studies for themselves."
(from Mystery Pollster - November 29, 2004)
Let's not forget, Mr. Memmott, that a representative to Zogby International was at the congressional forum as well. Shawnta Watson Walcott, communications director for Zogby International, stated at the hearing that:
"... it has become increasingly clear that this election has produced unprecedented levels of suspicion regarding its outcome, and we join this panel discussion in an attempt to find a resolution to these issues,"Something tells me Zogby would love to look at that raw data as well.
(from CNSNEWS.com - December 9, 2004)