Kevin Drum shows us a helpful chart, from Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, that illustrates how the exit polls in the battleground states were way off base, and all in the same direction.
The worst cases:
New Hampsire, where Bush did 9.5% better than predicted.
Ohio, where Bush did 6.7% better than predicted.
Pennsylvania, where Bush did 6.5% better than predicted.
Minnesota, where Bush did 5.5% better than predicted.
Florida, where Bush did 4.9% better than predicted.
Kerry won three of these five states anyway. But, of course, if Ohio had gone his way, as the exit polls suggested, he would be President-elect now.
In ony one of the battleground states did Bush fail to do better than the exit polls suggested. That state was Wisconsin, and the final result was right in line with the exit polls showing Kerry winning by a very small margin.
Now there are many reason why the exit polls could be off so systematically. Reasons ranging from errors in the poll methodology to outright voter fraud. Certainly these results have been the inspiration for the extensive talk about voter fraud on the internet since election night, even if errors in poll methodology appear at first to be a more likely scenario.
Unfortunately, the exit polling companies are not helping the process of discovering what went wrong here. As the normally extra-calm and overly-rational Drum writes:
I'm getting progressively more pissed off about the exit polls with every passing day. The folks who ran them have actually encouraged rumor mongering by refusing to publicly explain what happened to us benighted masses. So far, all they've done is write a confidential report that apparently didn't even acknowledge the systemic errors in the final results and instead laid the blame on those irresponsible bloggers who got everyone riled up by posting early results. Meanwhile, their defenders in the media were practically apoplectic about the gall of non-experts using data they can't possibly understand in order to advance their own bizarre conspiracy theories. Which would be fair enough if they'd step up to the plate and give us the benefit of their expertise.
But they haven't. They've declined to talk to reporters, they've released no serious findings of their own, and they haven't made their raw data available even to qualified researchers. Freeman's numbers might well be wrong, but there's no way for him to find out. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the experts are the ones who have created the vacuum in which rumors thrive.
So that's why I'm posting this: because I want to put some pressure on them to come out from their caves and tell us what they think — and to debunk guys like Freeman if they can. After all, there's probably a perfectly plausible explanation for all this. In fact, I'm sure there is. But until they tell us what it is, the conspiracy theories aren't going to go away.
Way to tell it, Kevin! I also don't see any dramatic evidence for widescale fraud, at least so far, but the talk is not going anywhere until everything is laid out in the open for a full examination.