exit polls« Back to Glossary Index
An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted. A similar poll conducted before actual voters have voted is called an entrance poll. Pollsters – usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters – conduct exit polls to gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, as in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count.
There are different views on who invented the exit poll. Marcel van Dam, Dutch sociologist and former politician, claims to be the inventor, by being the first to implement one during the Dutch legislative elections on February 15, 1967. Other sources say Warren Mitofsky, an American pollster, was the first. For CBS News, he devised an exit poll in the Kentucky gubernatorial election in November that same year. Notwithstanding this, the mention of the first exit polls date back to the 1940s when such a poll was held in Denver, Colorado. Exit polls are archived at universities.
Exit polls are also used to collect demographic data about voters and to find out why they voted as they did. Since actual votes are cast anonymously, polling is the only way of collecting this information.
Exit polls have historically and throughout the world been used as a check against, and rough indicator of, the degree of election fraud. Some examples of this include the Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004, and the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004.
They are used to command a mandate as well as to determine whether or not a particular political campaign was successful or not.« Back to Glossary Index