Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Erroneous Exit Polls

I posted a couple months ago about how every single time anyone releases a North Carolina poll they get grief for under representing the black vote. That's because the 2004 exit poll said the voting population in North Carolina was 26% black. According to the State Board of Elections it was actually only 18.5%.

Yesterday when we released our South Carolina poll I heard from several people again that they thought we were under representing the black vote at 29%. The 2004 exit poll said 30%, and many think Obama at the top of the ticket will equate to a 10% increase in black turnout which would put it at 33% for this year.

Unfortunately the 2004 South Carolina exit poll was wrong too. According to the official data from the South Carolina Election Commission, 73% of voters were white in the 2004 general election and 27% were non white. That's a sharp strong contrast to the exit poll that said just 67% of voters were white with 30% black and 3% other races.

Race is not the only thing the 2004 exit polls got wrong in South Carolina. The exit poll also stated that just 11% of those voting in the election were over the age of 65. Based on the actual data the electorate was actually 19% over the age of 65.

Given the over representation of African Americans and the under representation of senior citizens in South Carolina, using the 2004 exit polls as a guide is a pretty risky proposition for pollsters since each of those errors would inflate Barack Obama's numbers.

We've only compared the real demographic data to the exit polls in two states- North Carolina and South Carolina. Those were both highly erroneous. Can the 2004 exit polls be trusted anywhere? I hope someone with more time than me will see what sorts of problems there were in other states as well.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting about the NC discrepancy between exit poll (26% black) versus real results (18.5% black). However, what that means is that John Kerry was getting a much bigger take of the white vote than was previously assumed in North Carolina.

If he were getting 90% of the black vote with just 18.5% of the electorate as black, he would have only gotten 39% of the overall vote, but he got 44%. So he must have scored around 34% of the white vote, not 27% as the 2004 exit poll showed for North Carolina.

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