Misinterpreting the Early Vote

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hi. MSNBC and other anchors are quoting exits polls which indicate that the substantial volume of early votes are going for Obama – fulfilling the prophesy of the polls they’ve been reporting in recent weeks that show double digit advantages for the Democrat candidate. By at least one account, 30% of all Americans who will vote in this election have already voted – but even that conclusion is based on polling.

It’s certainly true that these exit and other polls may be accurate, but then maybe they’re not. Polling is far from an exact science – exit polling, in particular. More to the point, the logic of these anchors and the political experts they are forever interviewing is lacking, to put it politely.

Just because the early vote is favoring one candidate – if that is, in fact, the case – doesn’t mean that it’s representative of the votes most of us will cast tomorrow. In fact, it could be that the early vote is being cast primarily by Obama supporters, especially black and younger voters, who, in their enthusiasm for their candidate, want record their preferences as soon as possible. The composition of tomorrow’s vote could be entirely different. The early vote, in other words, tells us nothing for sure about the outcome of the total vote.

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