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Exit pollster reduces size of survey in non-swing states

On Election Day, exit pollster Edison Research will divert resources from largely predictable states to 'where the news is.'

On Election Day, we will get some sense of how Americans voted from exit polling. The five major TV networks and the AP pay a company called Edison Research to do the National Election Exit Polls. 

In the past, pollsters quite literally asked voters whom they voted for as they exited precincts, but this year, it will be different. 

Joe Lenski, who co-founded Edison Research, says his company will employ more than 3,000 people on Election Day.

"That’s exit poll interviewers,” he says. “That’s sample precinct vote count reporters. That’s supervisors. That’s telephone room operators that are taking in the data.”

But this year, that staff will be more-heavily concentrated in certain places -- swing states, to be precise. Lenski says Edison Research is focusing on “where the news story is.”

“We have decreased the sample sizes in states that are less competitive,” he says. So states that are solidly red or solidly blue won’t be polled as heavily. 

That troubles Matt Baretto, a political science professor at the University of Washington. He worries we’ll get a false view of the national electorate.

“We are now stuck with one Election Night poll, one exit poll,” Baretto says. “And I think that’s dangerous.”

Barreto sees an opportunity for other pollsters to compete, although he estimates exit polls cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. 

Lenski, at Edison Research, says he has tweaked his methodology to better reflect the number of Americans who vote early or absentee.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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