Media must curb habit of hoarding exit-poll details

During 99% of the election season, the media is poll crazy.

During 99% of the election season, the media is poll crazy.

They devote pages and countless graphs to covering whatever results come out of the Zogbys, Cook Political Reports, and Gallups of the world. Not one second of thought is given to how this may influence voters.

It's too bad that election night has to be the evening when the media showcases its jealous guardianship of valuable information. This manifests itself nowhere more so than in the way that news outlets hoard exit-poll information - which, unlike endless proselytizing from talking heads, is something that the public actually cares to hear about.

Reports prior to election night detailed the lengths to which the big six networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and the AP - went to ensure that no exit-poll data leaked early this year. Two representatives from each organization were allowed into a locked room on Election Day to examine the evolving data. Then, at 5pm, they were all cut loose, running back to their networks to get the exit-poll numbers on the air as quickly as possible before the blogosphere got hold of them.

All this, so they can call races with 3% of the precincts reporting, all while neglecting to mention exit polls, as if winners were derived from their divine wisdom alone.

The truth is: all voters are capable of understanding a caveat that exit-poll data is not final, and that its results may change over the course of the day. Why must we suffer for the media's 2000 election fiasco?

No news outlet should participate in keeping valuable civic information out of the hands of the public. Journalists in America do not carry special licenses; they are citizens. And if they can handle the shock of early exit-poll numbers, so can their audience.

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