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The American publicly will find out even if it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has actually won the 2016 presidential election long prior to the last poll is counted.

Or rather, fine think we know. Because as polls are closing across America, media outlets space releasing departure poll results — predicting that will success a state, and providing much more information about who really turned the end to vote and also why.

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The leave polls will form the story the the election — they’ll carry out the record that world will refer to in the future when castle talk about what issues mattered and how ours 45th president constructed a successful coalition.

But to understand exactly how accurate the leave polls really are — and also whether you must trust your predictions around who’s going to win — you need to understand how the departure polls space conducted, and also why. If you a crucial consumer of exit poll data, you’re much less likely to it is in duped by negative information on choice night, and much more likely to understand whether the departure polls room really telling the story the the 2016 election.

How do exit polls work?

Every November election, departure polls are performed by a group of media outlets dubbed the national Election Pool: NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN, and the linked Press. They hire a pollster to command the exit poll, yet they"re the persons that own the information — and also that gain to be the an initial to report the results.

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exit polls have the right to really ruin the mood at an election night party. (This one was in 2008.) Joe Raedle/Getty The yes, really polling happens in 2 parts.

The many visible component of the poll happens in human being on choice Day. An army of thousands of interviewers are sent to numerous polling places roughly the country. Interviewers technique a certain number of voters who space leaving the polling ar — the exact fraction surveyed is an enig — and also ask them to fill out the written leave poll survey. Pollsters calculation they’ll interview around 85,000 civilization on choice Day.

But component of the departure poll has already happened before Election Day. As beforehand voting has become an ext popular, it"s gained harder come predict poll totals just by talk to human being who vote on election Day. So for the past several elections, exit pollsters have actually started calling people and also asking if castle voted early or absentee — climate conducting departure poll interviews by phone. (In 2016, pollsters approximated they’d contact about 16,000 voters this way.)

What have the right to you learn from leave polls?

The main purpose the the leave poll is to permit TV networks and the AP to task who"s winner races as shortly after the polls close as possible.

That means that in 2016, only 28 states are walking to have state departure poll outcomes published. The includes evident presidential battlegrounds (Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin), states with key Senate races (Indiana, Missouri), and states that are simply really big (New York, California).


If a state is plainly a safe state because that either democracy or republicans — Massachusetts or Tennessee, for example — exit pollsters quiet send people to execute interviews there, because that the objective of the national poll. Yet they nothing collect sufficient interviews come publish reliable poll results.

The leave poll pool cut ago its efforts due to the fact that 2012, when 31 claims were surveyed in depth. That might lead to part surprises. Alaska, because that example, isn’t gift surveyed this year however has been surprisingly tight in presidential polling. However it’s hard to imagine either Hillary Clinton or Donald trump paving a course to 270 electoral votes without the leave poll identifying the winner.

But the exit poll isn’t just about whom civilization voted for — it is why there room interviewers also in for sure states. Voters space asked come provide straightforward demographic info like gender, age, and ethnicity. Furthermore, they"re asked part questions around their an individual viewpoints and also behaviors — prefer their religion and churchgoing actions — and questions about significant issues encountering the country.

That method the exit poll data is actually an ext detailed, in part ways, 보다 the main US Census poll tallies the come out number of weeks ~ the election. It can offer the first hints — and also often the most necessary ones — to what voters believed this choice was about. That"s very important come pundits as they try to analyze what it means.

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CNN’s liquid Crowley is among the civilization who’ll need to do part high-speed translate of departure poll results. John Moore/Getty In 2004, because that example, post-election chatter concentrated on "values voters." Voters that attended spiritual services regularly had actually overwhelmingly voted for George W. Bush. The narrative come out that the leave poll data.

Of course, what voters say is important to castle is partially what campaigns have told voters is vital — there"s political science research study suggesting that when a project hammers details issues, those space the concerns that the candidate"s pendant say space most vital to them. Yet the departure poll is still the best opportunity the national media has, in some ways, to figure out that voted, why, and how.

This is the 21st century. Why aren’t we seeing exit poll outcomes in real time?

The media outlets to run the exit poll want to have the ability to describe who"s voting, and whom they"re poll for, to the general public as early as possible. But they don"t desire to have any type of influence on that ends increase voting — castle don"t want anyone deciding not to vote due to the fact that they"ve currently seen what the exit polls say and they don"t think their vote will matter. (There"s some proof that this happened back in 1980, when some outlets projected the Ronald Reagan would victory the presidential election before polls closed on the West Coast.)

In some countries, favor the united Kingdom, it"s in reality illegal for any media outlet to report leave poll results before the polls close. In the US, it"s no illegal, however there"s a binding agreement amongst the media outlets that run the leave poll that none are allowed to leak any kind of results before the polls have closed.

Sometimes, networks slip up. In 2014, because that example, Fox News showed at an early stage exit poll outcomes in brand-new Hampshire before polls had actually closed over there in a tight Senate race. The network suggested that it hadn’t broken the leave poll rules since it technically didn’t show how many respondents had voted because that Jeanne Shaheen or Scott Brown — that showed how many civilization said lock would vote because that each candidate if the race came down to a runoff. (Other outlets disagreed, but Fox no kicked out of the consortium that uses the departure poll.)

In 2016, part media outlets space trying to find their means around the agreement: Slate, because that example, is making use of its own election data tool to share turnout projections in actual time. But it’s not utilizing the official leave poll results.

So as soon as do departure poll outcomes come out?

Reporters are enabled to see few of the leave poll results as they"re being compiled throughout the day, however they"re under super-strict defense — we"re talking no-phones-allowed-in-the-room-where-the-results-are-kept levels of security. And there"s a strictly regimented schedule for when leave poll results can obtain released.

Around 5 afternoon ET, media outlets are allowed to start reporting what the leave poll says around who turned out to poll — the racial, age, or party break down of voters. However these room preliminary results, and also they"re going to be skewed toward human being who voted early in the day. So groups who have tendency to vote later on in the work — choose young voter — might be underrepresented in the stats that an initial get announced.

As shortly as polls nearby in a details state, media outlets are allowed to task who"s walking to success elections there, based on the leave poll results. In deep blue or deep red states, whereby the outcome of the election isn"t yes, really in doubt, media outlets don"t waste any time projecting winners. For this reason the minute 7 pm hits on the eastern Coast, because that example, you deserve to expect to watch CNN and also the AP do a bunch the projections in ~ once. In states with closer races, media outlets will frequently wait to obtain the final departure poll outcomes (including civilization who poll right prior to the polls closed), or wait to see just how actual poll tallies stack up when precincts start reporting main vote totals.

Don"t leave poll results ever before get leaked?

There has actually never been an yes, really leaked leave poll in the US. But there have actually been many of hoaxes.

If you watch anyone on facebook sharing "LEAKED leave POLL RESULTS" while the polls space still open, it is in very, very skeptical.

This will certainly be a little tricky in 2016, since Slate’s real-time Votecastr project can confuse world into thinking that departure poll results are being leaked or exit throughout the day. As long as you recognize what those results really room — approximates of who will win based upon turnout projections — you’ll be fine, but don’t mistake them for “leaked” exit poll results.

And definitely don"t decide not to vote just due to the fact that you saw something in a leaked leave poll.

Are exit polls always right?

No. In fact, there space some certain challenges that leave polls have confronted for the previous several elections the they still haven"t discovered a method to job-related out:

Early voters. The phone poll for beforehand voters is a relatively new addition come the exit poll— and also it’s tho a reasonably minor one, contrasted with in-person polling. At an early stage voting itself, meanwhile, has actually gotten really popular really quickly. In vital states choose Nevada and Florida, it’s approximated that fewer civilization will show up to vote on choice Day than confirmed up during early voting.

The departure poll understands the huge function early voters will certainly play — pollsters approximated to Pew the 35 to 40 percent of every voting will certainly happen at an early stage this year — but it’s no clear the their polling can accurately catch who those world are. That runs right into the problems any kind of phone poll has — namely, that it"s complicated to poll people who only have mobile phones. And because this year saw such a huge surge in early voting, it’s tough to use past years come predict exactly how representative a sample is.

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No leave pollster here! It’s i can not qualify that any kind of state is going come get called the wrong way because the leave polls didn’t include enough early on voters there. Networks are mindful of the at an early stage voting data, and also if, say, the exit polls indicate Donald Trump will certainly eke the end a narrow win in Nevada, networks will more than likely wait until several of the votes space counted to see whether trump card was really able come surmount Hillary Clinton’s early voting lead there. But the demographic and also other data the leave poll provides might be it was crooked in favor of people who vote in human — who could not it is in the voter who made decision this election.

Small groups. Like any type of poll, the smaller sized a sample dimension is, the much less likely the is to be representative. So the exit poll is quite reliable once it come to large demographics (men, women, Democrats, Republicans) however less reliable once it it s okay to small demographics (young voters, Jewish voters).

Voters of color. In addition to the general difficulties with smaller sized voting demographics, analysts believe the leave poll has actually a propensity to oversample a certain kind that voter of shade — the sort who lives in majority-white areas.

Here"s the logic. Even though the public doesn"t know specifically how the exit poll chooses where to go, it"s feasible to make some educated guesses. The departure poll is trying to predict the margin of victory for one candidate over another across the state. So as soon as it decides i m sorry polling areas to put interviewers outside of, it"s reasonable to assume the it"s picking lots of swing precincts — precincts that room harder to predict and likely to impact the outcome. Those space going to be largely white precincts.

Alternatively, says Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions, departure pollsters might choose a precinct together a benchmark based on the critical cycle. For example, if a precinct voted because that the democratic senator 70 percent to 30 percent in 2008, the pollster might choose to placed an leave poll interviewer at the precinct to view if the Democrat is gaining less than 70 percent that the poll this time around. Yet pollsters room not necessarily paying attention to the gyeongju makeup of those precincts.

Here"s why this is a problem: The voter of shade pollsters run right into in majority-white precincts might not it is in representative that the voters of color throughout the state. In particular, according to Latino Decisions, voter of color living amongst whites are "more assimilated, far better educated, higher income, and an ext conservative than other minority voters."

Check out the difference in the percentage of nonwhite voters who had actually a college level in 2010, according to the us Census matches the departure poll:

Latino decision and the difficulty is also worse for Latino voters, since exit polls are practically never available in Spanish — even though more than a 4 minutes 1 of Latino voters choose Spanish to English. For this reason the exit polls oversample English-speaking Latinos.

All these issues together mean that the exit polls periodically think Latino voters space much much more favorable come Republicans 보다 they actually are. In 2010, because that example, bother Reid won reelection to the Senate by transforming out Latinos to vote versus his Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, who was running together a hardcore immigration hawk. However according come the departure polls, 30 percent that Nevada Latinos voted for Angle — many an ext than vote for john McCain for president in 2008. (When the main vote tallies came out, it ended up being clear that an ext than 90 percent of Latinos had actually voted for Reid.)

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It transforms out their candidate didn’t gain 30 percent that the Latino vote after all...

So are leave polls generally biased towards Republicans?

Nope! as a matter of fact, even with the issues provided above, exit polls have actually historically been biased towards Democrats an ext often than they"ve been biased towards Republicans.

In 2004, for example, the exit polls overestimated john Kerry"s re-publishing of the vote (by "more than one typical error") in 26 states; that overestimated George W. Bush"s re-publishing in only four states. The factor for the error? bush voters were an ext likely than Kerry voter to refuse come answer a pollster"s questions after castle left the voting booth.

Are the departure polls going to accurately guess the 2016 election?

Traditionally, the leave polls don’t obtain the outcome wrong the often. The errors in exit polls aren"t sufficient to get the outcome of the race wrong — lock just might misstate exactly how much the victor won by, or who sustained him/her the most.

Admittedly, this is not a usual election, and also it’s possible the electorate i will not ~ be usual either. The data from at an early stage voting argues that pollsters could have underestimated the Latino vote and (perhaps) misjudged how countless of them would vote because that Hillary Clinton. That’s the kind of error the leave polls would additionally be responsible to make. Top top the other side, Republican champions of Donald Trump indicate he’ll be able to turn out unexpected numbers the white voters without college degrees — who space liable come live in deep red areas where the exit pollsters won’t be either.

But this are factors to be cautious of the demographics the the departure polls existing in their in-depth data. Exit polls no the only reason a state it s okay called. By the time exit polls have the right to be released, networks have actually a day’s worth of information about how an election has actually gone in a particular state — and also if they think that information shows the exit poll can be wrong, they’ll wait to contact the state for Trump or Clinton.

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If the polls nearby on choice Day and CNN instantly projects that your desired presidential candidate will shed your state, don"t organize your breath for an eventual victory. Yet if the exit polls job your candidate will certainly win and he or she end up losing, it’s the fault of the departure poll, not proof of a rigged election.