Exit poll

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted. A similar poll conducted before actual voters have voted is called an entrance poll. Pollsters – usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters – conduct exit polls to gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, as in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count.


There are different views on who invented the exit poll. Marcel van Dam, Dutch sociologist and former politician, claims to be the inventor, by being the first to implement one during the Dutch legislative elections on February 15, 1967.[1] Other sources say Warren Mitofsky, an American pollster, was the first. For CBS News, he devised an exit poll in the Kentucky gubernatorial election in November that same year.[2][3] Notwithstanding this, the mention of the first exit polls date back to the 1940s when such a poll was held in Denver, Colorado.[4]


Exit polls are also used to collect demographic data about voters and to find out why they voted as they did. Since actual votes are cast anonymously, polling is the only way of collecting this information.

Exit polls have historically and throughout the world been used as a check against, and rough indicator of, the degree of election fraud. Some examples of this include the Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004, and the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004.

They are used to command a mandate as well as to determine whether or not a particular political campaign was successful or not.

The distribution of votes is not even across different polling stations, and also varies at different times of day. As a result, a single exit poll may give an imperfect picture of the national vote. Instead, the exit poll is primarily used to calculate swing and turnout. Pollsters return to the same polling stations at the same times at each election, and by comparing the results with previous exit polls they can calculate how the distribution of votes has changed in that constituency. This swing is then applied to other similar constituencies, allowing an estimate of how national voting patterns have changed. The polling locations are chosen to cover the entire gamut of society and where possible, to include especially critical marginal seats.[5][6][7] Data is presented in one of three ways, either as a table, graph or written interpretation.[8]


Like all opinion polls, exit polls by nature do include a margin of error. A famous example of exit poll error occurred in the 1992 UK General Election, when two exit polls predicted a hung parliament. The actual vote revealed that Conservative Party Government under John Major held their position, though with a significantly reduced majority. Investigations into this failure identified a number of causes including differential response rates (the Shy Tory Factor), the use of inadequate demographic data and poor choice of sampling points.[9][10]

Because exit polls require a baseline to compare swing against, they are not reliable for one-off votes such as the Scottish independence referendum or the UK EU membership referendum.[5][6] Because exit polls can't reach people who voted by postal ballot or another form of absentee voting, they may be biased towards certain demographics and miss swings that only occur among absentee voters.[7] For example, in the May round of the Austrian presidential election, 2016, exit polls correctly pointed to a narrow lead for Norbert Hofer among those who voted at a polling station.[11] However, the postal votes (which made up about 12% of the total vote)[12] were slightly but definitively in favour of his rival Alexander Van der Bellen, and ultimately gave Van der Bellen victory.

Organizations that conduct election exit polling

In the United States, the National Election Pool (NEP), consisting of ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, FOX News, and NBC, conducts a joint election exit poll. Since 2004 this exit poll has been conducted for the NEP by Edison Media Research.

The release of exit poll data in the US has been met with increased scrutiny in recent years. In the 2012 election protocols to quarantine the release of data were put in place.[13]

In Egypt, the Egyptian center for public opinion research (baseera) conducted in 2014 two exit polls; the constitution referendum exit poll and the presidency elections exit polls. These exit polls are considered the first exit polls to be conducted not only in Egypt but also in the Middle East (www.baseera.com.eg).[14]

Criticism and controversy

Widespread criticism of exit polling has occurred in cases, especially in the United States, where exit-poll results have appeared and/or have provided a basis for projecting winners before all real polls have closed, thereby possibly influencing election results. States have tried and failed to restrict exit polling, however it is protected by the First Amendment.[15] In the 1980 US presidential election, NBC predicted a victory for Ronald Reagan at 8:15 pm EST, based on exit polls of 20,000 voters. It was 5:15 pm on the West Coast, and the polls were still open. There was speculation that voters stayed away after hearing the results.[16] Thereafter, television networks have voluntarily adopted the policy of not projecting any victor within a state until all polls have closed for that state.[17] In the 2000 US presidential election it was alleged that media organizations released exit poll results for Florida before the polls closed in the Republican-leaning counties of the panhandle, as part of the westernmost area of the state is one hour behind the main peninsula. A study by economist John Lott found an "unusual" decline in Panhandle voter turnout compared to previous elections, and that the networks' early call of Florida for Democrat Al Gore may have depressed Republican turnout in other states where the polls remained open.[18]

Some countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have made it a criminal offence to release exit poll figures before all polling stations have closed, while others, such as Singapore, have banned them altogether.[19] In some instances, problems with exit polls have encouraged polling groups to pool data in hopes of increased accuracy. This proved successful during the 2005 UK general election, when the BBC and ITV merged their data to show an exit poll giving Labour a majority of 66 seats, which turned out to be the exact figure. This method was also successful in the 2007 Australian federal election, where the collaboration of Sky News, Channel 7 and Auspoll provided an almost exact 53 percent two party-preferred victory to Labor over the ruling Coalition.

In Bulgaria, where the announcement of exit polling results is illegal in the election day and despite an explicit ban to this effect,[20] many news agencies regularly publish "rankings" of various seemingly unrelated subjects throughout election days. Examples of such spoof rankings from the 2013 elections include made-up "weather forecasts",[21] fake "tourist information",[22] the popularity of non-existent computer games,[23] humorously-titled "literature"[24][25] and even a list of most popular brothels.[26] In the first example, the temperatures are shown to be highest on Pozitano street and at the NDK (respectively the headquarters of the BSP and GERB parties), while in the second, the most popular tourist destination in the country is reported to be the small town of Bankya (home of GERB leader Boyko Borisov), followed by Buzludzha – the mountain peak seen as the symbolic home of the BSP.

There was a widespread controversy during the Indian general election, 2014 when the Election Commission of India barred media organisations from displaying exit poll results until the votes had been counted. This was followed by a strong protest from the media which caused the Election Commission to withdraw its statement and confirm that the exit polls can be shown at 6:30 PM on 12 May after the last vote is cast.


  1. ^ Van Dam, Marcel P. A. and Jan Beishuizen (1967) Kijk op de kiezer. Amsterdam: Het Parool
  2. ^ Warren J. Mitofsky, 71, Innovator Who Devised Exit Poll, Dies, New York Times, 4 September 2006
  3. ^ David W. Moore, Senior Gallup Poll Editor, “New Exit Poll Consortium Vindication for Exit Poll Inventor,” Gallup News Service, October 11, 2003
  4. ^ Frankovic, K. A (1992) Technology and the Changing Landscape of Media Polls and Fritz J. Scheuren, Wendy Alvey (2008) Elections and Exit Polling p.5
  5. ^ a b Delphine Strauss (31 May 2016). "The hedge funds' EU referendum exit polls are not to be trusted". Financial Times. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b Anthony J Wells (1 June 2016). "Exit Polls on the EU Referendum". UK Polling Report. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b David Firth (May 2010). "Exit polling explained". Department of Statistics, University of Warwick. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  8. ^ Best, Samuel J.; Brian S. Krueger (2012). Exit Polls: Surveying the American Electorate, 1972-2010. CQ Press. p. 1,2. ISBN 9781452234403. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  9. ^ Market Research Society (1994). "The Opinion Polls and the 1992 Election: a Report to the Market Research Society". London: Market Research Society.
  10. ^ Payne, Clive (2001-11-28). "Election Forecasting in the UK" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  11. ^ "Austria holds its breath as exit polls show far-Right candidate Norbert Hofer leads by the narrowest of margins". The Daily Telegraph. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Austria presidential vote: Run-off rivals face dead heat". 22 May 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  13. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  14. ^ "بصيره".
  15. ^ Pickert, Kate. "A Brief History of Exit Polling." Time. Time Inc., 04 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Nov.http://content.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1856081,00.html
  16. ^ Facts on File Yearbook 1980 p865
  17. ^ "Explaining Exit Polls". AAPOR. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  18. ^ John Lott (December 1, 2000). Documenting Unusual Declines in Republican Voting Rates in Florida’s Western Panhandle Counties in 2000 (Report). American Enterprise Institute. p. 7. Retrieved August 26, 2018. The results...clearly show an unusual drop-off in Republican turnout in Florida's 10 western Panhandle counties in 2000.
  19. ^ Comparative study of laws and regulations restricting the publication of electoral opinion polls Archived 16 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Article 19 (2003)
  20. ^ The Council for Electronic Media bans Rankings Charts (in Bulgarian), 24 Chasa, 19 Mar 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  21. ^ Weather: Extremely hot on Pozitano and at NDK (in Bulgarian) Archived 7 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, BGNES, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  22. ^ Bankya is Bulgarians' favourite destination (in Bulgarian), 24 Chasa, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  23. ^ How Fast Are "Crazy Frogs" v4.2 (in Bulgarian), bTV, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  24. ^ Literary Critics Warn: Book Tastes are Not Measured by Thermometer (in Bulgarian), OffNews, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  25. ^ The Most Sought-After Books in Macedonia (in Bulgarian), Focus News, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  26. ^ Clients Rank Priestesses of Passion (in Bulgarian), Frog News, 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.

Further reading

External links

  • [1] How to Conduct Exit Polls
1978 United States Senate election in Illinois

The 1978 United States Senate election in Illinois took place on November 7, 1978. Incumbent Republican United States Senator Charles H. Percy ran for re-election to a third term in the United States Senate. Percy was opposed by Democratic nominee Alex Seith, an attorney who had been appointed to several local government positions. Though Percy had been expected to coast to re-election over Seith, a first-time candidate, the election quickly became competitive. In the last few days of the campaign, a desperate Percy ran a television advertisement that featured him apologizing and acknowledging that, "I got your message and you're right." Percy's last-ditch effort appeared to have paid off, as he was able to edge out Seith to win what would end up being his third and final term in the Senate.

According to an NBC News exit poll, Percy won 50% of black voters, 54% of voters 35 years old or young, and 58% of Jewish voters.

1996 United States Senate election in New Hampshire

The 1996 United States Senate election in New Hampshire was held on November 4, 1996. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Bob Smith won re-election to a second term. Smith had established himself as the most conservative Senator from the Northeast, and Bill Clinton's coattails nearly caused his defeat. On the night of the election many American media networks incorrectly projected that Swett had won.

2004 Venezuelan recall referendum

The Venezuelan recall referendum of 15 August 2004 was a referendum to determine whether Hugo Chávez, then President of Venezuela, should be recalled from office. The recall referendum was announced on 8 June 2004 by the National Electoral Council (CNE) after the Venezuelan opposition succeeded in collecting the number of signatures required by the 1999 Constitution to effect a recall.

The result of the referendum was not to recall Chávez (58% no), but there have been allegations of fraud. In 2004, a report by election observers rejected the hypothesis of fraud, but statistical evaluations released in 2006 and 2011 disagreed. Former United States president Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center, all groups which had observed the referendum, and other analyses denied fraud, saying the referendum was performed in a free and fair manner. Some individuals have disputed the Center's endorsement of the electoral process in the referendum. The Carter Center looked into the allegations and released a paper and statistical analysis reaffirming their original conclusions.

2007 Gibraltar general election

General elections were held in Gibraltar on 11 October 2007. The incumbent Chief Minister Peter Caruana narrowly won a fourth term, but opposition leader Joe Bossano had a very strong showing. Joe Bossano noted that this would be his last term as an MP, and joked that he would not join the government, despite receiving a higher personal vote than some members of the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD).

The GSD had ten candidates (all of which were elected), Bossano's party the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP) had seven candidates (four of which were elected) and the Gibraltar Liberal Party (GLP) led by Dr. Joseph Garcia had three candidates (all of which were elected). The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) fielded six candidates, five of whom obtained the fewest votes in the election after a lacklustre campaign. Two independents were unable to break through Gibraltar's party block vote system but did relatively well. They were the right wing lawyer Charles Gomez of New Gibraltar Democracy and Richard Martinez of the Parental Support Group.

An exit poll organised by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) had given victory to the GSLP/Liberal coalition, but as counting progressed this proved incorrect.

2009 Bolivian constitutional referendum

A constitutional referendum was held in Bolivia on 25 January 2009, postponed from the initially planned dates of 4 May 2008 and then 7 December 2008. Drafted by the Constituent Assembly in 2007, the new constitution was approved in the referendum according to an exit poll by Ipsos Apoyo for La Razón and ATB, a Bolivian television network. Furthermore, it required early elections to be held on 6 December 2009.

2010 Moldovan parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on 28 November 2010 after parliamentary vote failed to elect a President for the second time in late 2009.

2016 West Bengal Legislative Assembly election

A Legislative Assembly election was held in 2016 for the 294 seats (out of 295 seats) of the Vidhan Sabha in the state of West Bengal in India.The All India Trinamool Congress under Mamata Banerjee won 211 seats, and thus was reelected with an enhanced majority. Like in the 2011 election, the poll was held in six phases. The first phase was held in Naxalite-Maoist affected Red corridor areas with two polling dates: April 4 and April 11. The other phases were held on April 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5. The result of the election was declared on May 19.

In the previous election in 2011, the All India Trinamool Congress in a coalition with INC won a majority and ended the 34-year rule of the Left Front government.


Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief. Lobbying (often by lobby groups) is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics. Research has started to address how advocacy groups in the United States and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

An advocate is someone who provides advocacy support to people who need it.

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a New York-based national organization founded in 1974 that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

Election verification exit poll

An election verification exit poll (EVEP) is a relatively new concept in polling, intended to improve the accuracy of exit polls to such an extent that they can be used to verify election results. Traditional (media) exit polling relies on small samples, wheres EVEPs propose to use larger samples.


The FOM-Ukraine (Ukrainian: ФОМ-Україна,Russian: ФОМ-Украина) is political sociology company in Ukraine. It is joint venture of the FOM (Russian: Фонд "Общественное мнение", Moscow and Ukrainian Marketing Group (Russian: Украинской маркетинговой группы), Kiev.

Results of exit poll performed by FOM (Moscow) company favoring Viktor Yanukovych were the only allowed to be publicized on TV during Ukrainian presidential election in 2004. All others polling was censored.

National Election Pool

The National Election Pool (NEP) is a consortium of American news organizations formed in 2003 to provide exit polling information for US elections, replacing the Voter News Service which had failed disastrously in 2002.The system produced skewed results in the 2004 US presidential election and in the 2016 presidential elections.As of 2017, member companies were ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News; Fox News and the Associated Press formerly were part of the Pool, but left in 2017 due to plans to conduct their own exit polls and other experimental alternatives to gauge voter sentiment. The Pool contracts with Edison Research to conduct the exit polling; the Associated Press performs vote tabulations.The organizers of the pool insist that the purpose of their quick collection of exit poll data is not to determine if an election is flawed, but rather to project winners of races. Despite past problems, they note that none of their members has incorrectly called a winner since the current system was put in place. [1] However, to avoid the premature leaking of data, collection is now done in a "Quarantine Room" at an undisclosed location in New York. All participants are stripped of outside communications devices until it is time for information to be released officially.

Penn Schoen Berland

Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) is a market research, political polling, and strategic consulting firm based in the United States. The firm is named for partners Mark Penn, Douglas Schoen, and Michael Berland. PSB was founded in 1977 and acquired by the British-based WPP Group in 2001. The company is known for its political polling on behalf of Bill Clinton and, since the 1970s, PSB has worked on behalf of numerous political campaigns in the U.S. and internationally, contributing to the election of more than 25 political leaders worldwide. Its founders are also credited with the introduction of overnight polling. PSB's notable corporate research and communications work includes research for Microsoft during the 2001 United States v. Microsoft antitrust case and advising McDonald's in the UK to focus on food quality in 2005.

Philippine presidential election, 2010

The Philippine presidential and vice presidential elections of 2010 were held on Monday, May 10, 2010. The ruling President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was barred from seeking re-election by the 1987 Constitution, thus necessitating an election to select the 15th President.

Incumbent Vice-President Noli de Castro was allowed to seek re-election though he could have possibly sought the presidency. As he didn't offer himself in any manner of candidacy at the election, his successor was determined as the 13th Vice President of the Philippines. Although most presidential candidates have running mates, the president and vice president are elected separately, and the winning candidates may be of different political parties.

This election was also the first time that the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) implemented full automation of elections, pursuant to Republic Act 9369, "An act authorizing the Commission on Elections to use an Automated Election System in the May 11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in subsequent National And Local Electoral Exercises".The results of the congressional canvassing showed that Senator Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party won by a plurality, although he had won with the highest percentage of votes since 1986, but not enough to have the largest margin of victory, even in elections held after 1986.

Meanwhile, in the election for the vice-presidency, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) defeated Senator Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party in the second-narrowest margin in the history of vice presidential elections. Aquino and Binay were proclaimed in a joint session of Congress on June 9, and took their oaths on June 30, 2010. Roxas filed an electoral protest to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET; the Supreme Court) on July 10, 2010.

Quick count

Quick Count is a method for verification of election results by projecting them from a sample of the polling stations. Different from an exit poll, voters are not asked who they voted for, projection of results is based on official results of the polling station. Parallel vote tabulation is another name for quick count.

RNB Research

RNB Research is a global market research company, headquartered in New Delhi, India. RNB Research operates through its own offices in 15 cities across 10 countries - China, Egypt, GCC, India, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Thailand & Vietnam.RNB Research specializes in qualitative and quantitative custom market research. It has experience in most major sectors, particularly consumer products, media, retail, financial services, food and beverages, technology, telecommunications and internet research.RNB Research is a member of the American Marketing Association (AMA), Marketing Research Association (MRA), Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO).

South Carolina primary

The South Carolina primary has become one of several key early-state presidential primaries in the process of the Democratic and Republican Parties choosing their respective general election nominees for President of the United States.

Historically, this primary election has been much more important in the Republican Party's nomination process, considered a firewall that could permanently eliminate any/all serious rivals to the winner. It is meant to force the various factions of the party to decide quickly on and unite behind a single candidate and avoid wasting precious time and resources on a drawn-out battle between their own candidates, that would divert the party's focus from working to defeat the Democrats' likely nominee.

Since its 1980 inception, the winner of the Republican South Carolina primary has always become the eventual Republican National Convention nominee for that fall's general election, with one exception, the 2012 primary, in which eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished second, behind winner Newt Gingrich (who would go on to suspend his campaign before that summer's convention began).

South Carolina has cemented its place as the "First in the South" primary for both parties. For the Democrats, the 2008 primary took on added significance because it was the first nominating contest in that cycle in which a large percentage (55 percent, according to an exit poll) of primary voters were African Americans.The 2012 South Carolina primary was held on January 21 for Republicans, and on January 28 for Democrats. The 2016 primary was held on February 20 for Republicans, and on February 27 for Democrats.

Warren Mitofsky

Warren J. Mitofsky (September 17, 1934 – September 1, 2006) was an American political pollster.

Mitofsky graduated in 1957 from Guilford College and was executive director of the CBS News election and survey unit from 1967 to 1990. He also previously served as an executive producer of CBS election night broadcasts.

Prior to CBS, Mitofsky worked with the Census Bureau where he designed a number of surveys. Along with Joseph Waksberg, Mitofsky is credited with developing an efficient method of sampling telephone numbers using random digit dialing, which has since been widely adopted as a sampling method. In 1999, the American Association for Public Opinion Research presented him with its lifetime achievement award for his "continuing concern for survey quality".

Mitofsky is credited with having invented the exit poll.Warren Mitofsky is listed among the United States Census Bureau's Notable Alumni In 1989 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.In November 2004, Mitofsky was interviewed by PBS NewsHour regarding what went wrong with the accuracy of his exit polls for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Early poll results were leaked which showed John Kerry leading George W. Bush, conflicting with the final official outcome. Mitofsky said he suspected that the difference arose because "the Kerry voters were more anxious to participate in our exit polls than the Bush voters." He refused, consistently, to release precinct-level polling data from Ohio to researchers who maintained that the election results were fraudulent, and his own exit polls were a more accurate picture of the vote.

He died on September 1, 2006 in New York City of an aortic aneurysm, aged 71.The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research awards an annual Warren J. Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research.

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