The Night Before Tomorrow

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For over 35 years, a gentlemen’s agreement between the broadcast networks – and later the cable operators too – and major print media has prevented the dissemination of exit polls or other information about election results before the polls close in each state.

Tomorrow, that agreement gets shattered. Slate will be providing real time projections on vote totals throughout the day. In my own small way, I’m going to help that effort by sharing what I learn online with you, my faithful readership. 

I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like, because this has never been done before. But Votecastr, a data startup, will be be working with Slate to provide real time projections in seven battleground states.

This Election Day will be different—regardless of how it ends. This time, for the first time, you won’t have to wait until the polls close to find out what happened while they were open. In partnership with the data startup VoteCastr, Slate will be publishing real-time projections of which candidate is winning at any given moment of the day in seven battleground states, any of which could decide who is the next president of the United States.

This, as you may have heard, is controversial. It will break a decadeslong journalistic tradition whereby media outlets obey a self-imposed embargo on voting information under the unproven theory that it might depress turnout on Election Day. But as our Editor-in-Chief Julia Turner put it this summer when she announced the VoteCastr partnership: “The role of journalists is to bring information to people, not to protect them from it.” For the first time, you’ll have access to the same kind of data that campaigns use to monitor voting activity and frame their thinking throughout Election Day. We teamed up with VoteCastr because we don’t think there’s any good reason the candidates and their teams should have a monopoly on that kind of information.

I agree with the above sentiments. More information is always better than less information.

How good will it be, how intelligible will the data look, what conclusions can we draw, all remain to be seen. But starting around 11, we’re going to give it a shot. If you’re a traditionalist and don’t want to know, you might want to stay away (please don’t, it’ll be fun, I swear). I’ll update as often as I can and as often as it makes sense to do so based on the available information.

As always, it’ll be fun, with lots of bad puns, curse words, and as much data geekery as I’m capable of generating.

And before we go to bed, let’s check in with our various data sources on what’s likely to happen when it’s all over.

President:

538: Clinton 70.9%
Upshot: Clinton 84%
Princeton: Clinton >99%
Huffington Post: 98.2%

If all that doesn’t help you sleep, I don’t know what will. 

Re HuffPost, please note that their final map is identical to the one I nailed up on the blog refrigerator last Friday. As is one on Facebook by Friend of the Blog and Big Purple Svengali Mark McLaurin. Just sayin’, I think I’m in pretty damn good company at this point.

And with that, I’m off to bed. As you should be too. Gonna be a long day tomorrow. See ya out there.

3 thoughts on “The Night Before Tomorrow

  1. Jason

    I must actually disagree with you on this one. The agreement between journalists not to release exit polls was created to prevent those polls from effecting the outcome of the election itself. If early polls show Clinton way ahead in PA for instance, then other Clinton voters might not bother voting later that day. The withholding of info was not a patriarchal move to keep voters ignorant but to prevent the assumption that their votes did not matter. People need to get out and vote no matter what!

    Reply
    1. Jonathan Shurberg Post author

      There is no evidence, nor has there ever been, of what you suggest. In fact, the whole proposition underlying what you say – if people believe Clinton’s winning, they’ll stay home – is similarly unsupported by any data. In fact, I believe the opposite, that if voters think their candidate is winning, they will be more likely to vote, because everyone wants to be on the winning team.

      I also think it’s both cruel and manipulative to try to make people believe that things are much worse than they are. Fundraising emails cherrypick the worst polls, say “it’s all falling apart unless we get $3 from you RIGHT NOW.” Nonsense. Terrifying people with untrue or exaggerated claims of doomsday is appalling. And unnecessary. Yes, go out and vote – but do it happily, in the belief that all will be well. Because the strong likelihood is that it will.

      And in general, information is power. Who is the media, who are you, who am I, to decide that voters ought not to know what we know? It’s paternalistic and patronizing to believe otherwise.

      Reply
  2. Jsson

    I apparently struck a nerve there! You’re right, I’ve never seen any data on the subject and I suppose this movement towards live information spread could truly be a good move. However, I should point out that you make an assumption regarding people wanting to be on the winning team, as far as I know, we do not have any data on that effect either.

    What I will be curious to see, is if the exit piling data itself will be manipulated by interested parties…all in all a fun day for political scientists and wonks! I’ll be following!

    Reply

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