Sunday, November 05, 2006

News Media Agrees to Bury Exit Polls on Election Day Again!

Just as in 2000, 2002 and 2004, the Network News Consortium Conspires to Allow the Theft of U.S. Elections.

The consortium of news networks have ordered the quarantine and black-out of exit poll data on election day. In the last three elections, the news consortium's exit polling indicated that Democrats won contests around the country decisively, but when those results didn't bear out in the ballot counts, the news consortium buried the exit polling. The realization of the Republicans' theft of these elections came from the leaks throughout the day during each election day, of what the news consortium's exit polling was forecasting as the Democrats' (inevitable) victories. But since nobody (no Democrat, no legal authority) was going to block this hijacking of the citizens' election and object formally, the smoking gun (the exit polling data) had to get buried.

It looks as if the stage is being set to do it all over again: If the Republicans steal the 2006 mid-term elections, then the news consortiums will have moved themselves (and the exit polling data) out of any chain of evidence path.

The Los Angeles Times reports:
Haunted by the bungled calls and leaked information that plagued the coverage of the last three nationwide elections, the networks are taking no chances when it comes to Tuesday’s midterms.

This time around, the members of the National Election Pool -- a consortium of five broadcast and cable networks and The Associated Press that commissions exit polls of the major races -- have decided to sequester two analysts from each news organization in a secret “quarantine room” in New York, where they alone will get access to the first waves of data from precincts around the country.

Stripped of their cell phones and Blackberries -- and even monitored when they use the bathrooms -- the representatives will be able to study the results of the surveys, but will not be allowed to communicate them to their newsrooms until 5 p.m. Eastern. They must sign legal affidavits guaranteeing that they will not reveal any data before then.

The drastic measures are necessary, news executives said, to prevent the leaks that occurred in the 2004 presidential race, when early exit poll results indicating that Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry was in the lead rocketed through cyberspace.

“People got the wrong impression, and while it didn’t impact how we projected the election, we realized that if the data was getting out and being misinterpreted, that’s not a good thing,” said Dan Merkle, director of ABC News’ decision desk.

The decision to delay the release of the data “may slow us down a little bit, but it’s a fact of life for all the networks,” he added.The first wave of exit poll data is often misleading, polling experts say, because it is based solely on surveys of morning voters, a sample that is not necessarily representative of the rest of the electorate.

“The analogy I use is that of a scoreboard at a baseball game,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director, one of those who will be quarantine room. “What the scoreboard says at the end of the first inning is not an accurate reflection of the final score, or even who is going to win.”

Of course, the leaking of early data wasn’t the only problem in 2004. By the end of Election Day, the exit polls continued to show Kerry ahead of President Bush, a problem news directors attributed in part to the fact that Democrats have historically been more willing to answer the surveys than Republicans.

Another possible factor: the large number of college students hired to conduct the exit polls in 2004, some of whom apparently had trouble getting older voters to answer the surveys. This year, the consortium has recruited more professional interviewers and has stepped up their training in an effort to capture a wider swath of the electorate.

“It’s kind of drip, drip, drip,” said Paul Friedman, vice president of CBS News. “If we made another bad mistake, it would kind of add to the toll taken on our credibility.”

After weathering fierce criticism for their botched calls of the 2000 presidential election, network executives said that their prime directive now is to be right above all else.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure,” said Marty Ryan, executive producer of political programs for Fox News. “We love being first in race calls, but our mandate . . . is to be correct.”

Fox News has commissioned its own exit polls in seven key states as a back-up measure, as it has for the last several elections. This year, CBS is also conducting its own exit poll in key precincts, largely in Ohio, to gauge the mood of voters. (These separate polls will also be used to inform demographic coverage, but not to project results until after the polls are closed.)

But most of the data Tuesday will be provided by the National Election Pool, the media consortium that replaced the beleaguered Voter News Service, which was disbanded in 2003 after failing to generate accurate data in two consecutive elections.

In forming its successor, the participating media organizations -- ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC -- decided to segregate the exit poll surveys, which are now conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, and the tabulation of the actual vote, which is done by AP.

Each network also has assembled their own team of statisticians, political scientists and other consultants to analyze the numbers on Election Night, setting up major operations that resemble political war rooms. Some -- like NBC -- once again plan to keep their decision desks isolated from coverage on rival networks so executives won’t be influenced by their competitors in projecting a race.

From what I'm hearing from the political pundits on the cable news networks' pre-election weekend coverage, Republicans will hold onto one (the Senate) if not both houses of Congress.

The fix is in.

If voters go so far as to turn the House of Representatives over to the Democrats, that means the votes are there for the Democrats to take the Senate, too. If the Democrats don't win the Senate, then somebody is playing with the Diebold ballot tabulating program.

For the last couple of weeks, but particularly the last two days, Bush and Cheney have been showing the same hostile "in your face" antagonism toward Democrats that they've practiced for the last six years. How could they possibly be this arrogant if the fix wasn't in? How could they possibly be so insulting and dismissive of both the Democrats, whom they would have to finally work with, and the voters who elected the Democrats, if Bush-Cheney weren't certain that this election was in the bag for them?

The only way Bush-Cheney could be this certain (and this arrogant) is if they knew they were going to steal it.

Will the news media co-conspire with the Republicans and allow it to happen again, and will American voters sit back and allow their country and democracy to be hijacked again?

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