William Betz to Steve Freeman

First-rate job on your Salon article, in which you note:

“Prior to 2000, no one even debated the accuracy of exit polls. Scholars, practitioners and critics all agreed. In 1987, Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that exit polls ‘are the most useful analytic tool developed in my working life.’ Political scientists George Edwards and Stephen Wayne, in their book ‘Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy,’ put it this way: ‘The problems with exit polls lie in their accuracy (rather than inaccuracy). They give the press access to predict the outcome before the elections have been concluded.'”

A relevant anecdote might appropriately be cited. In 1992 when Clinton defeated Bush Sr. both Clinton and Bush were interviewed (by CBS, I believe) on the afternoon of election day for a piece that was to be (and was) broadcast later about the election, when it was clear to the press and both candidates based on exit polling that Clinton had won. Clinton talked about his victory and Bush acknowledged defeat. This was hours before the polls closed both on the East Coast AND on the West coast, and the exit polling proved to be absolutely accurate. Both candidates knew it was. This was at a time when there was general acceptance by both parties of accurately predicted results based on scientific data. Since then the Republiscum have learned how to skew the data and upset the science simply by appealing to people’s natural inclination to want to wait until “all the results are in” before knowing who won — and, of course, by debunking the science, a tactic bought into for some reason by the exit pollsters themselves who are the most cowardly of all cowards.

Keep up the good work. Democracy depends on the work of people like you and Mark Crispin Miller.

William Betz

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