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Reply #80: sure, I'm happy to explain it again [View All]

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OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-08 06:28 AM
Response to Reply #70
80. sure, I'm happy to explain it again
Basically all the exit poll data, including the 2004 exit poll data, are archived with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. The 2004 exit poll data were also available for unrestricted public download for almost a year. These data contain one record per questionnaire that the interviewers phoned in, with answers (if there were any) to all the questions on the questionnaire, including a bunch of demographic questions. The records have arbitrary precinct IDs, intended not to be matchable to physical precincts. (Nevertheless, some enterprising DUers dove in and apparently matched many of the Ohio exit poll precincts.)

It doesn't really matter whether you personally want to know the demographics. This isn't about you. ;) That's how the data are collected, that's how they're used by many analysts (media and eventually academic), and that's how they're released. And that offers enough information on individual respondents to compromise the privacy of at least some of them.

Now, lots of people are saying that what they really want to know is the precinct totals. Fine, but the individual data have already been released. Some people say that this time, the pollsters should have withheld the data that they always release, so they could release the aggregate results with precinct identifiers instead. Or some think the pollsters should have just let it all hang out because, after all, these data are so important.

Except that no one seems able to explain why these data are so important, and there's reason to think that they actually aren't. One reason is simple logic: indirect evidence on maybe 50 precincts in Ohio is trumped by election data for all the precincts in Ohio. Another is empirical analysis: we know from ESI that in Ohio, there is no significant relationship between red shift and change in Bush vote share 2000-2004, which is a strong indication that the precincts with big red shifts had bad poll results. If that weren't the case, then the change in vote shares would be much smokier than the exit poll result in itself. Mebane and Herron actually looked at the election data. The people who trumpet the urgent need to release precinct identifiers, not so much. Interesting.
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