November 23, 2004

Baltimore Chronicle on Exit Poll Discrepancies

Did Bush Lose the Election?
by Margie Burns

As things stand right now, it seems unlikely that Mr.
Bush won the election.

There are two major categories of problems. One
affects the electoral vote. Release of the final exit
polls conducted in all states shows a pattern that
cannot be explained away. The exit polls were released
(not to the general public) at 4:00 p.m. on Election
Day by polling consultants Edison Media Research and
Mitofsky International.

These are the genuine exit polls for all 50 states and
the District of Columbia, taken before the outcome was
known in any particular state. These are not the "exit
polls" that organizations including CNN went back and
retroactively changed after the election, making them
conform more to vote tallies.

The exit poll results are laid out straightforwardly
in a very clear list (tabulation). Compared to the
vote tallies given the public, they seem amazing.
Contrary to results in every election for the past
twenty years, the variance between exit polls the
published vote tally was more than two points--in
other words a swing of 4% or 5% or more to Bush, in 33
of 51 jurisdictions. Regardless of which candidate won
in those states, a big variance, always in the same
direction, allegedly occurred in every single exit
poll in all of them.

Exit polls from the next nine states down the list
were also reversed by a smaller swing toward Bush in
the published vote tally, including in the District of
Columbia and Maryland. Thus, to sum up, a
four-out-five-state swing to Bush is alleged in an
election where every indication showed new voters,
independent voters, and younger voters trending toward
Kerry and/or away from Bush, and in an election where
turnout increased, even though increased voter turnout
generally favors the challenger against the incumbent.

Furthermore, this crucial swing occurred in all the
close states: Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New
Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
and Iowa all allegedly had the same "red shift." Most
seemingly shifted more than two points, in other words
a swing of 4% or 5%, regardless of the size or region
of the state, or whether it went for Bush or Kerry.

A paper titled "The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy"
has been published by Dr. Steven F. Freeman, whose
Ph.D. in organizational studies came from MIT and who
holds professorships at the University of Pennsylvania
and at an international MBA program founded by
Harvard. According to Professor Freeman, the swing
between exit poll and vote tally is an anomaly even if
you take just the key battleground states of
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. "The likelihood of
any two of these statistical anomalies occurring
together is on the order of one-in-a-million," he
says. "The odds against all three occurring together
are 250 million to one."

Disclaimer: I distrust opinion polls and much other
polling. I have long worried that incessant polling
can weaken the individual's reliance on his/her own
judgment, can plant suggestions, can intimidate
reporters, and can manipulate public acceptance of the
unacceptable. Following this election, an opinion poll
has already been published suggesting that most people
are relieved that the outcome was clear.

All well and good, if it was clear. But the integrity
of counting votes is essential to our nation's
survival as a democracy. Obsession about who is ahead
before the election, the "horse race" question, is
often silly. But after the election, the question of
who won is fundamental. No other question is nearly as

Exit polls are not just polls. They are polls of
people who actually showed up to vote, taken just
after the voting, and weighted to take into account
any preponderance of one group. Professor Freeman's
paper points out that exit polls are used to check and
verify the validity of elections in countries
including Germany and Mexico; when exit polls
contradicted the claim that Eduard Shevardnadze had
won election in the former Soviet country of Georgia,
he was forced to resign under pressure from the US
among others.

Immediate investigation is most urgent in four states
that the swing from exit poll to published vote tally
also swung from Kerry to Bush: Ohio, Florida, New
Mexico, and Iowa. The many problems already reported
from counties and precincts in all four states more
than corroborate the suggestion raised by the exit
poll tabulation. These four states also add up to 59
electoral votes, more than enough to have tilted the
election outcome.

The Electoral College is not the whole story.
Questions have arisen that affect the popular vote
count even in "safe" states. Stay tuned.

Margie Burns writes freelance in Maryland. She can be
reached at

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