We thought the rule was pretty clear. After the Florida fiasco in 2000, in which CBS News’ Dan Rather called the election for Bush, then for Gore, then for Bush again, the news media agreed not to release numbers from exit polls until all the polls were closed. By and large the media has been pretty good about sticking to that agreement.
So why is National Review putting the results of exit polls as early as 2pm Tuesday on its blog? Associate Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez, who posted the item, chose not to respond to Campaign Desk’s attempts to ask her, though she was in the office.
But Marilee Schwartz, political editor of The Washington Post, told Campaign Desk that, by its contract with the company conducting the poll, her newspaper is forbidden from even characterizing the results of exit polls until after the polls have closed. That National Review — or one of its individual bloggers — should have a different contractual arrangement seems, shall we say, unlikely.
This is pretty cut-and-dried: Publicizing exit poll numbers has the potential to unfairly sway late voters, and diminish the legitimacy of the process. It’s simply irresponsible journalism.
Update 3:18 PM: The Drudge Report now has the results up, under the heading: “National Review Posts Early Results.”Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.