And They’re Off!

Once again, it’s election day, and that can mean only one thing: Mischievious bloggers posting early exit poll numbers on the Internet (this time before Californians have even headed out for lunch), and we here at Campaign Desk timing the exercise with our spiffy ethical stopwatches.

Lest we be accused of a nefarious act of triangulation, our point, briefly, is quite straightforward: The potential impact of such information on citizens who have yet to vote has always kept major news outlets from printing the numbers early. (Not to mention their contractual obligations to companies providing exit-poll data.)

Not so with those zany bloggers, who delight in throwing sand into the machinery. Today’s repeat offenders are Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review and (who else?) the inimitable Wonkette!

But today’s numbers come with a twist: Admissions that exit poll numbers aren’t necessarily reliable, a caveat that was conspicuously absent before. Lopez notes “As always, [this is an] unofficial look at the races,” and Wonkette!, copying Lopez’s numbers, notes that they’re “probably about as trustworthy as Vietnam-era Alabama National Guard records.”

This raises an entirely new question: If they’re that untrustworthy, why print them at all? But that’s another story, isn’t it?


Late update: Jack Shafer of Slate, who thinks releasing these numbers is a good thing, has posted today’s polls as well.

Another update/correction: Wonkette! now cites her own sources on another state. In addition, on Feb. 17, Wonkette! did include a note in her post publicizing the numbers that “exit polls have been really unreliable this year,” though similar warnings are missing from her other posts on exit polls.

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Bryan Keefer was CJR Daily’s deputy managing editor.