User:Steve Freeman/National Election Pool

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The National Election Pool (NEP) is a consortium of American news organizations formed in 2003 to provide "information on Election Night about the vote count, election analysis and election projections." [1]. Member companies consist of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, FOX News and NBC News. The organization relies on the Associated Press to perform vote tabulations and has contracted with Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International to "make projections and provide exit poll analysis."

History

NEP's precursor was Voter News Service, which was disbanded in 2003 after controversies over the 2000 presidential election and 2002 elections. Warren Mitofsky, the founder of Mitofsky International, headed the original poll that preceded VNS.

2004 Election

For the 2004, NEP was paid $10 million, by far the largest polling contract on record. Despite the pledge to avoid the mistakes of previous years, NEP nevertheless experienced major problems in their coverage of the 2004 United States general election when leaked exit polling data was different than the final results, and far beyond the poll's margin of error. Many news organizations began planning for a win by John Kerry.

NEP responded by increasing their poll's reported margin of error and denouncing bloggers who leaked "early" data indicating Kerry had won: NEP co-director, Edison's Joe Lenski said, "I'm not designing polls for some blogger who doesn't even understand how to read the data," [2]

In the end, NEP pollsters acknowledge claimed that their own interviewers were to blame for the error, hypothesizing that highly-educated interviewers were more likely to select their own kinds of people than follow NEP protocols. [3]

Dismissals of election fraud

The pollsters also insisted that their polls are not designed (and therefore cannot be used) to detect fraud. Rather, their rather to project winners of races and provide material for news coverage. Yet they also said:

1. that it was only "early" exit polls that showed Kerry leading [4]

2. “Exit polls do not support the allegations of fraud due to rigging of voting equipment” because the [[[Within Precinct Disparity]]] (WPD)for “precincts using touch screen and optical scan voting machines” are “similar to the [WPD] for punch card voting equipment, and less than the [WPD] for mechanical voting equipment.” [5]

3. their own interviewers were to blame for the error, in particular that liberal or over-educated interviewers were more likely to select their own kinds of people than follow strict protocols. [6]

4. "The 2004 exit polls were generally believed to have indicated a victory for John Kerry. Nothing could have been further from the truth. This was compounded by the conspiracy theorists after the election who mistakenly claimed the exit polls validated their claim. There was no evidence in the exit polls to substantiate these claims. On election day the misinformation about the exit polls was spread by inexperienced people trying to make sense of complex statistical data. After the election the academics who yelled election fraud were no better. It is time to set the record straight."[7]

These claims are false, and probably disingenuous:

1. Lenski disingenuously did not explain that by "early" he meant before they were "corrected" (i.e., massaged, or in this case, contorted, so as to conform with official numbers.) [8]

2. What the pollsters mean is that they found no systematic differences between precincts that used newer electronic-touch-screen and optical-scan voting systems, and those that used the older punch-card and mechanical voting equipment. But no one suggests that the older machines are impervious to fraud; indeed, the problems with punch cards were what precipitated the changes. (See HAVA and Electronic voting) More notable is data from their own report indicating that although there was on average a 7 percentage point disparity across the country between exit-poll survey results and official numbers in those same precincts where machine counts were used, there was statistically no difference between exit-poll survey results and official numbers in precincts that used hand-counted paper ballots. [9]

3. better educated interviewers had less variability in their results and poorly educated interviewers, suggesting that their results were more accurate and reliable, and therefore one more argument for a corrupted count. Every assertion made by Edison/Mitofsky suggesting clean results is contradicted by their own data. [10]

4. This abstract was simply stunning. That's exactly what the polls indicated. [11]

Refusal to release data

Apologists of the 2004 election results, notably Mark Lindeman, Elizabeth Liddle, Mark Blumenthal and Edison/Mitofsky ultimately justify ignoring the vast preponderance of publicly available evidence that indicates fraud by relying on what they would have us believe is their trump card: that their own privately held data, which they cannot share, “kills the fraud argument.” [12]

The data needed to properly investigate the integrity of the election has never been made available to independent researchers. Rather, it remains the property of the NEP consortium that commissioned the exit polls, which says it cannot be released. NEP pollsters claim that this is because it could violate confidentiality agreements, i.e., that under some extreme circumstances one conceivably might be able to figure out how one unusual individual in an unusually homogenous precinct may have said he or she voted. [13] Aside from the question as to why or whether any researcher would ever be inclined to go through the trouble of doing this; it’s unclear that such identification would be a realistic possibility. And even if, in the extremely remote circumstances, that someone might think he or she could identify a voter, what harm could it cause? Yet NEP would have us accept that a small, extremely hypothetical risk that a few individuals’ confidentiality might be compromised but causing no apparent harm – outweighs the importance of an independent check on our nation’s voting procedures and, very likely, evidence of a stolen election. [14]

A few of the inconsisties with this position include:

  • confidentiality could not be a concern in the vast majority of precincts that have even minimal demographic diversity. Why not release precinct identification for these data?
  • In those few precincts where some individual identification might conceivably be possible, NEP could simply have blurred the demographic data. Indeed, given the choice between precinct identifiers – critical to the investigation of fraud -- and demographic data, not only is the relative importance plain as day, but demographic data make no sense at all. After all, what is the point of trying to explain why voters purportedly voted as they did, when we cannot even say how they voted?
  • NEP denied this data to a US Congressional committee and highly qualified and experienced team of researchers from Ivy League and other institutions, some of whom have experience working with sensitive and national security data, who offered to work only onsite and reimburse NEP for any additional costs incurred. Yet they have given it to a British doctoral student, our discussant, Elizabeth Liddle, and the Election Science Institute (ESI), a start-up enterprise with no record at all of either research or maintaining confidentiality, whose sole employee’s dubious qualifications includes no background in research, polling, or political science, but rather, obligations to Edison/Mitofsky. [15]

Ms. Liddle likewise lacks even the most meager qualification and professional standing, but her comments and writings are strictly and absolutely restricted as to what Warren Mitofsky will permit her to say. [16]

2006 Election

Problems struck yet again during the 2006 congressional elections. Early polling data on the Senate races across the country showed a higher percentage of Democrats having been surveyed than were being shown in raw vote tallies. Most members and subscribers decided to ignore the polling on the night of the election. [1]

Exit polls and election verification

Exit polls hold perhaps the greatest promise for impact of any election verification technique. The Bush administration has testified that they helped fund exit polls abroad because it is one of the only ways to expose large-scale fraud. Indeed, discrepancies between exit polls and the official results have been used to successfully overturn election results in Serbia, Peru, the Republic of Georgia and, in November 2004, Ukraine.

In contrast to overseas exit polls, however, the US National Exit Poll (NEP) media exit poll does not report actual survey results, but rather disingenuously legitimizes official results, massaging or torturing their data as necessary to bring them in line. In 2004, we knew of the seven percentage point national discrepancy between how people said they voted and official numbers (11 percentage points in Ohio) only because of a technical glitch that prevented NEP from "correcting" results on election night. Such a mistake won't happen again. In a presentation to the American Statistical Association, Warren Mitofsky that as an "improvement" in future exit polls,those with access to the data are to be quarantined without electronic or phone communication and subsequently sworn to secrecy. [17]

Alternatives

Non profit groups, Election Integrity, Election Defense Alliance and The Warren Poll are now conducting fully transparent Election Verification Exit Polls (EVEPs). [18]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. NEP FAQs
  2. Nick Anderson and Faye Fiore, ELECTION 2004 / THE WHITE HOUSE "EXIT POLLS: Early Data for Kerry Proved Misleading" Los Angeles Times, November 4, 2004 page A17.
  3. Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004 prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP) embargoed for release at 10AM ET January 19, 2005
  4. Jim Ruttenberg, “Survey Experts Cite Problems with Data and Interpretation,” New York Times, November 4, 2004.
  5. Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004 prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP) embargoed for release at 10AM ET January 19, 2005
  6. Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004 prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP) embargoed for release at 10AM ET January 19, 2005
  7. Warren Mitofsky, “2004 Exit Polls: What Bloggers And Others Got Wrong” [Presentation to the American Statistical Association], Philadelphia, October 14, 2005
  8. Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count(New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006) Chapter 4 "Biased polls or biased count?"
  9. Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count(New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006) Chapter 5 "The Inauguration Eve Exit-Poll Report"
  10. Steven F. Freeman, Polling Bias or Corrupted Count? Accepted Improbabilities and Neglected Correlations in 2004 US Presidential Exit Poll Data Presentation to the American Statistical Association, Philadelphia, October 14, 2005
  11. Steven F. Freeman, Polling Bias or Corrupted Count? Accepted Improbabilities and Neglected Correlations in 2004 US Presidential Exit Poll DataPresentation to the American Statistical Association, Philadelphia, October 14, 2005
  12. “2004 Exit Polls: What Bloggers And Others Got Wrong” [Presentation to the American Statistical Association], Philadelphia, October 14, 2005
  13. Michael Traugott, Benjamin Highton, and Henry E. Brady. "A review of recent controversies concerning the 2004 presidential election exit polls." The National Research Commission on Elections and Voting. 2005.
  14. Steven F. Freeman, Who Really Won – and Lost – the 2004 US Presidential Election? Presentation to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montreal, May 19, 2006
  15. From the Election Science Institute website: During the previous 12 year period, while dividing residences between California and Australia, Mr. Hertzberg participated in the management teams of numerous new ventures (contributing to an IPO). In addition, he also founded and successfully developed his own ventures in the automotive accessories, industrial food equipment, information technology, television and direct marketing industries.
  16. Steven F. Freeman, Who Really Won – and Lost – the 2004 US Presidential Election? Presentation to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montreal, May 19, 2006
  17. “2004 Exit Polls: What Bloggers And Others Got Wrong” [Presentation to the American Statistical Association], Philadelphia, October 14, 2005
  18. http://www.electionintegrity.org/blogengine/post/2008/10/Announcing-the-Election-Verification-Exit-Poll.aspx Announcing the Election Verification Exit Poll

External resources

Books

Websites:

Articles:

  • Corn, David. 2004. A stolen election? The Nation 279, no. 18 (November 29): 5-7.
  • Traugott, Michael, Benjamin Highton, and Henry E. Brady. 2005. A review of recent controversies concerning the 2004 presidential election exit polls. The National Research Commission on Elections and Voting.
  • US Count Votes. 2005 Analysis of the 2004 presidential election exit poll discrepancies. National Election Data Archive Project.
  • US Count Votes. 2005. The 2004 presidential election: Exit poll error or vote miscount? National Election Data Archive.
  • US Count Votes. 2005. History of the debate surrounding the 2004 presidential election.