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Bush's Hispanic Support Continues to Fall!

According to a Scripps Howard News Service story today, Bush's Hispanic support in the national NEP exit poll has now been revised down from 44 percent to 40 percent.

Word of this revision came from an NBC official, elections manager Ana Maria Arumi. According to the story, Arumi says that:

...the exit poll over sampled in South Florida where Republicans are strong among Cuban-Americans.

For the revised figures the networks combined 50 state exit polls, which reflected more than 70,000 interviews.

This is obviously a step in the right direction and I can't help but feel some vindication from it, but it does not answer some key questions about this particular survey snafu and actually raises some additional ones.

1. If the initial figure was so far off, why was that? Could it really all be from oversampling in South Florida? But what about the huge overestimate of Bush's Hispanic support in Texas which was just revised downward in the last few days? Isn't whatever caused that overestimate likely to have been part of the problem too? Has that correction of the Texas data even been incorporated into this new estimate of the national figure?

2. And if the Texas data were so screwed up--as the exit poll authorities now appear to admit--how do we know that there weren't other states that were also seriously messed up and are now being uncritically incorporated into this new state-based national estimate?

3. If it is necessary to combine all the state data to get a reasonable national estimate for this particular demographic group, what about other demographic groups? Should we also use state-based national estimates for them? If not, why not?

4. Who's making the decisions here anyway? The Texas revision was announced by AP and credited to Mitofksy/Edison, but this revision is announced by NBC, an NBC official is the one making the claim about South Florida oversampling and the networks are described as the ones pooling the 50 state polls (see above) to get the national estimate. What on earth is going one here?

5. Whoever is, or is not, in charge, at some point there should be an explanation forthcoming of what exactly went wrong, how exactly it was fixed and why exactly it was deemed appropriate to fix it in that particular way. At this point, all we can do is guess at all these things, which reduces one's faith that the fixes they are currently implementing are really the right ones and are (finally) producing correct figures.


This is why the exit polling should be a transparent process. (Just like the election itself should be.) If they're going to occupy such a prominent place in the political spotlight, they should be willing to put up with critiques of their work in real time. They should say in advance what their procedures are for stratifying and weighting their sample, make their raw data available once the polls close (making clear what its limitations are), and "show their work," as our teachers used to insist we do, once they're releasing weighted results.

They don't need to say exactly where their sample precincts are going to be until the day is done, since that would undoubtedly lead to people trying to game the exit polls, but the rest of it should be in plain sight.

For the election just past, they should completely open their books on the exit polls, so that the statistics junkies can argue about it online over the months ahead, and so that statisticians can present papers on the subject at the Joint Statistical Meetings next August. (Deadline for abstracts isn't all that far off, so they should do this NOW.) If the exit pollers can't stand the critiques, they ought to get out of the kitchen.

So... exactly which groups did Bush win?

This election just smells worse and worse.