WSJ chronicles exit poll dissemination via blogs
Thursday, November 4th, 2004
WSJ headline: How Insiders Were Fooled: Bloggers Leaked Secret Data Giving Kerry an Early Lead, But Networks Honored Rules
Thanks to lessons learned four years ago when big media made some wrong calls, the average American watching television Tuesday night got a pretty accurate picture of how the election was going.
But for about seven hours in the afternoon and early evening, several million “insiders” with access to exit-poll data — blog readers, print journalists, TV executives, politicos and their e-mail buddies — had a different impression.
At 1:58 p.m. Eastern time, mydd.com, a political blog, posted exit-poll results from 12 states, with the caution that they were “early numbers.” They showed Kerry with a four-point lead in Ohio and a three-point lead in Florida. At 4:27, the site added another set of numbers, commenting: “Kerry continues to lead Florida overall as well. Again, these are exit poll numbers, so doubt them, but it looks great!”
Slate posted its first results at 3:15 p.m.; earlier, it had posted a long note explaining its decision to publish the exit polls, including a disclaimer about their potential inaccuracy.
“I hope I’ve had some role in killing exit polls,” wonkette.com Editor Ana Marie Cox, one of the bloggers who reported exit polls, said in an interview yesterday. “To the extent that blogs provide people with bad or misleading information, I hope that teaches people not to trust media in general.”
It wasn’t only bloggers that reported exit polls. WSJ.com, the Web site of this newspaper, posted an article between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. saying the early exit-poll data “purported to give Mr. Kerry an early lead in several key states” but raised questions about the validity of the numbers. The article linked to mydd.com, which posted the figures. “To have a story about how the election is playing out on the Web and not mention the exit polls would be a disservice,” said Bill Grueskin, the managing editor of WSJ.com.
Reuters news service ran a story at 6:17 p.m., citing political Web sites and their exit-poll data indicating a strong Kerry lead. Reuters also quoted an article from the conservative National Review casting doubt on the validity of the polls.