November 7, 2000
2:02 PM   Subscribe

I would appreciate it if people would not post exit poll info no matter where they get it from. Please resist the urge.

We'll all find out how it comes out soon enough. Practice patience, Grasshopper. In the mean time, there are good reasons why all the major news organizations have agreed not to do so; it tends to influence the outcome of local elections in the West, which is not desireable. Those reasons apply just as much to this forum.

The fact that you can do something doesn't mean that you should do it.
posted by Steven Den Beste (38 comments total)
I've been reading exit poll data all day from a variety of reliable and unreliable sources, and it's too close for anyone to stay home.
posted by rcade at 2:06 PM on November 7, 2000

In fact, the networks won't predict the outcome of any state until the polls are closed in all states.

A few years ago, out here in the West, one of the presidential candidates swept enough states in the east that the outcome from the states on the West coast were no longer able to affect the election. And when word passed, there were a lot of people standing in line to vote who started cursing, dropped out of line, and went home.

How does this affect local elections and local ballot measures? The people who give up are probably not the same as those who stayed behind and voted anyway. It would have distorted the result in some unknown way; measures which failed might have passed or vice versa. Perhaps different candidates for local office won than would have. And it finally became clear to the networks that they were actually harming the democratic process in their eagerness to be first to call the election, and collectively agreed to not do so anymore.

I request that the same restraint apply to MeFi.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2000

RCade, what you say may be true right at this particular instant. It may not be true in four hours. Anyway, there is no good reason, none whatever, for publicizing that information now. Why can't everyone wait until the polls close? It's only a few hours from now.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:08 PM on November 7, 2000

I would suggest that linking to such data is fine. If you don't want to know, don't follow the link. This should keep the actual numbers off the MeFi pages but still provide the data for those interested (like me - I'm Canadian).
posted by dithered at 2:23 PM on November 7, 2000

I'm with steven on this one.

posted by rebeccablood at 2:23 PM on November 7, 2000

I don't NEED to know about men pulling trucks with their penises, either.

I want exit poll data. If you don't want to see it, log off until tomorrow. Why should my access to information be limited by your desire to not see it?
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:30 PM on November 7, 2000

Can we get some more links to exit poll data? The piece is the best I've seen so far, but I need more!
posted by waxpancake at 2:32 PM on November 7, 2000

Why don't we have one thread which is clearly marked as *EXIT POLLS INSIDE* so that those that want to know can follow the link and look, and those that don't want to know can ignore the thread?
posted by gyc at 2:33 PM on November 7, 2000

It's silly to say that if you want something, you should have it. I agree in free speech, but I also think it should be illegal to yell fire in a crowded movie theatre.

Posting the numbers can be potentially damaging, and while there's no way to prevent the information from leaking, I think it's very important to remember how important this race is and not tamper with the voting process.

Posting numbers tampers with the process on the west coast, plain and sample.
posted by jragon at 2:33 PM on November 7, 2000

the only exit polls I've seen have been on conservative news sites, so take their results with a grain of salt.
posted by gyc at 2:34 PM on November 7, 2000

I think there is something profoundly undemocratic about the media, candidates, and many others knowing the likely result but keeping it from the public. I think the secret exit poll system currently in place is a house of cards -- Free Republic, Drudge and Inside.Com are all running details from alleged exit polls, and Sean Hannity's radio show in New York just had Drudge on calling a winner.

Why should anyone keep this secret from the public when everyone else knows it? If California and the other West Coast states have a problem with it, they can try to find a solution that doesn't involve voluntary secrecy.
posted by rcade at 2:41 PM on November 7, 2000

i would just like to point out that the use of 'crucially' in the blurb is completely incorrect.

top-notch journalists, hmph.
posted by maura at 2:52 PM on November 7, 2000

Well, sorry about that folks. It was a hasty post on my part. And, being a gamer, I try to be sensitive to the needs of "no spoiler" folks. So, in that vein, I'm taking a bite o' humble pie.

That said, I live on the Left Coast and exit polling data doesn't affect me at all. I research what candidate I want to vote for and decide. This particular race is so close, and the data so sketchy that anyone who sees the incredibly close results should actually be motivated to get out and VOTE. The usual argument I've heard is that upon seeing the exit polls -- in a typical, clearly decided race -- Left Coast Voter are disheartened and disinclined to participate.

In this particular race, I think it would be just the opposite: It's so close that Left Coast Voters should be MOTIVATED -- your vote counts even more.

I found this story from someone who has exit poll data to be an interesting discussion of the travails of deciding.

posted by josholalia at 2:54 PM on November 7, 2000

why not just circumvent the whole problem by instituting national polling hours that ignore time zones? If the Pacific Time states agreed to close their polls an hour earlier and the Eastern Time states an hour later, the entire issue would be moot.

posted by Mars Saxman at 2:55 PM on November 7, 2000

I'm supposed to vote today?

Voluntary secrecy to protect us out in the west is nice and all...but buring our heads in the sand doesn't do any good.

The closer the race the more friends i call to make sure they have actually Voted.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:56 PM on November 7, 2000

If anyone alters their behavior due to seeing the results of exit poll data, that is the fault of the reader, not of the exit polls. The right of "the press" (and that includes any of us, not just the networks) to disseminate newsworthy information, and my right to access said information, is not outweighed by your desire to be stupid because you can't control yourself. If anyone has a brain so overly simplistic that it causes their vote to be swayed by exit polls, the best thing for them to do is avoid all media until after they have voted. Or even better, don't vote at all.
posted by aaron at 2:57 PM on November 7, 2000

So..... What you are saying is, "Screw fair and impartial elections, I want my media fix!"

It might be true that exit polls shouldn't alter voter behavior but they do. And how is trying to help people vote impartially "buring our heads in the sand"?

We shouldn't know who will win until the polls close. How is that a bad thing?

What the hell is wrong with you people?
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:11 PM on November 7, 2000

Having cast my vote to the wind this morning, I say -- screw all those people who are too stupid to vote in the morning! I want my exit polls, dammit, and I want them now!

posted by kindall at 3:16 PM on November 7, 2000

That's the advantage of voting by mail--Oregonians cast their votes many days ahead of time, then just sit back and watch.
posted by frykitty at 3:18 PM on November 7, 2000

What the hell is wrong with you people?

We live in a country with a constitutional right to a free press.
posted by rcade at 3:18 PM on November 7, 2000

Reporting the results of a poll - not a ballot count, just a POLL like every other before it - does not undermine a fair and impartial election. I will repeat: Unless the public chooses to act stupid, the exit polls will not affect their votes one iota.
posted by aaron at 3:19 PM on November 7, 2000

The Constitutional right to freedom of the press is not unlimited, any more than freedom of speech is unlimited. If I as an individual can be arrested for inciting a crowd to riot without causing a Constitutional crisis, then certainly the press can be barred from inciting the public to stupidity.
posted by kindall at 3:29 PM on November 7, 2000

"We live in a country with a constitutional right to a free press."

.... And if journalists act in an irresponsible manner, well that's just the cost of freedom. Expecting the press to be responsible would be like taking the Bill Of Rights out and peeing all over it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:29 PM on November 7, 2000

If California and the other West Coast states have a problem with it, they can try to find a solution that doesn't involve voluntary secrecy.

yeah! make 'em vote during civilized hours! you realize those west coasters sleep in till around 9am EST every damn day?!?!?!?!

posted by quonsar at 3:30 PM on November 7, 2000

then certainly the press can be barred from inciting the public to stupidity.

Ha! Wanna bet? You are SO wrong on this. Basically the only thing the press can be prevented from publishing is outright libel or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government. And even then they can't be prevented before the fact; they can only be prosecuted after publication. Look up "prior restraint."
posted by aaron at 3:42 PM on November 7, 2000

The press has in many instances refrained from releasing information that could be damaging to ongoing U.S. military operations. I'd think that a domestic election would be at least as important. In any case, sure, prosecute them after publication, I've got no problem with that. Soon they'll learn not to do it in the first place.
posted by kindall at 3:48 PM on November 7, 2000

It's 3:45 here in Seattle, and I'm getting ready to go vote now. I haven't paid one iota of attention to any polls at all, and swore off Inside, Slate, Salon, et al. Not because it would affect my vote. I just can't stand it any more; I really just want the bloody thing over with. So here I go; then my girlfriend and I are going to do something absolutely numbing, like drink a bottle of gin and go see "Charlie's Angels" or the like.

Then, when I find out who won tomorrow, I will already have my blinding headache and wrenching nausea firmly in place.
posted by Skot at 3:49 PM on November 7, 2000

Listen to you folks. "Don't tell me the results of a poll because I might do something stupid with my vote!" Sheesh. It seems to me that universal polling times (10:30 to 10:30 in the East/7:30 to 7:30 in the West) is a better solution than tearing up the First Amendment, but ...
posted by rcade at 3:55 PM on November 7, 2000

While Steven raises a valid issue, one need only consider's speculation on stock slides to wonder if voting is really anything more than a media spectacle or oddsmaking exercise for elites. I think, if drug company stock did in fact start sliding because somebody saw VNS data, that we should hear about VNS reports. Why should big media money get an advantage over us? And whose interests does it serve, either to hide or tell
posted by rschram at 4:03 PM on November 7, 2000

Go Nader!
posted by Jeremy at 4:17 PM on November 7, 2000

This argument is pointless. Contrary to a vocal minority, the press does not contain themselves in any way regarding projections or exit poll data or actual returns or whatever. Any conservative approaches they make are simply due to a desire for accuracy, so they don't get caught with their pants down.

They don't quiet themselves for fear of affecting the west coast. That's an absurd and ill-stated assumption. In case you haven't turned your TV set on recently, they are already stating that Bush won several states near the east coast and the west coast voting places haven't shut down yet.

So if you want exit poll data, go hunt for it on the Web and then link to it here if you like, or don't. Or argue and whine about having access to it or not having access to it. It doesn't matter. This entire argument is based on incorrect data and assumptions that make the assumptions I usually make look downright normal!

Why are you people coming HERE for such data anyway? Just go to CNN or CSPAN. Geez!
posted by ZachsMind at 5:18 PM on November 7, 2000

yeah! make 'em vote during civilized hours! you realize those west coasters sleep in till around 9am EST every damn day?!?!?!?!

9 AM? What's this "AM" stuff? What kind of insane westie early bird gets up while it's still AM in the east?

-mars, who gets up at 10 AM pacific time... usually
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:36 PM on November 7, 2000

It seems to me that with a hot medium like TV (I realize I'm reversing McLuhan's designation) you can reasonably expect the content to be relatively safe: no breasts in the shower on a soap commercial, undergarments don't come off in soap opera sex scenes, comedians don't let loose with motherfucks and goddamns -- in the case of election results, it's fair to demand that they be withheld from broadcast. You (as a viewer) don't have much control over the content of the television -- you can only turn it off or change the channel, and if you're doing so in response to some objectionable experience it's already too late.

The internet however is quite cool, and most of us are strongly opposed to the idea of restricting content on the net. We'd rather leave it up to the individual to find his or her way to one time and then, most likely, never again. From experience, I've come to treat MetaFilter as a wildcard -- the only thing I'm sure about when I load it up each morning is that I'll have a fair number of "oddly enough" news posts to skip over as I look for some thought-provoking discussion to participate in.

While I agree that it would have been *far* more polite to stick those early exit poll results into a thread rather than up on the main mefi page, an argument can also be made from a usability standpoint for posting the info straight -- some people (Jorn of perhaps most famously) still surf the web on 33.6 modems.

The post in question was certainly appropriate. The outraged response probably ought to have been a link to a new thread on MetaTalk, which is where this post belongs as well. In any case, as long as the MetaFilter community continues to grow steadily (kudos, Matt!) and as long as the posting guidelines continue to be so broadly and gently worded (IMO, only the note about "4 or 5" comments needs to be updated :) then one will do better to recognize the nature of MetaFilter and use it accordingly rather than to rail against those aspects of this vibrant community which
one doesn't care for.

(what the hell does he mean about hot and cool media?)
posted by sudama at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2000

"The fact that you can do something doesn't mean that you should do it."

Heh heh, but (obviously) if there's enough people involved, a number of them will do it.
posted by EngineBeak at 6:48 PM on November 7, 2000

At one point they did consider the possibility of a single set of hours which were the same everywhere for the polls.

Then someone remembered Hawaii.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:49 PM on November 7, 2000

Posting numbers tampers with the process on the west coast, plain and sample.

That seems an endorsement of people's irresponsible behavior to me. If people want to decline to exercise their right (responsibility?) to vote based on exit poll results, any consequences of that action is THEIRS. Trying to take away individual responsibility and "take care" of people by protecting them from their presumably uninformed and ill-considered actions by denying them information is reprehensible.

Information wants to be free! If people can't handle the consequences of the freedom of information, tough. Maybe it's time they grew up and took responsibility for their choices and behavior. People who live in the east have no right to comment on the voting habits of people in the west, and people in the west would be better served by doing something about a perceived problem than by complaining about what an unfair burden geography has lain upon them.
posted by rushmc at 7:16 PM on November 7, 2000

I think it's ironic that we are squabbling over exposing a couple hundred people to exit poll data prematurely on MetaFilter, and every friggin' TV network called Florida prematurely to an audience numbering in the millions.
posted by rcade at 10:25 PM on November 7, 2000

Information wants to be free... but information also wants to be expensive.
posted by kindall at 11:34 AM on November 8, 2000

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