In recent years, however, I have acquired a new reason to dread reports of exit poll data. In cases of election fraud, there are varying levels of evidence, from tainted or lost ballots to unaccountable electronic tallies. It is impossible to conceive, however, of a serious challenge to an electoral result without widespread and rigorous exit poll data indicating that a plurality of voters voted for another candidate. The result of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio featured just such data, contributing to a poisonous unease that I cannot foresee ever lifting. We can fight for more accountable elections, but even if Diebold and similar systems are categorically rejected, I dont think Ill ever be able to watch live election returns again without an icy trickle of bile in my gut.
I used to despise exit polls because I felt there was no good use for the information and plenty of poor uses. For myself, only the final result mattered, so why should I care who some network talking head projected to be the winner? More vituperously, no model of voting behavior I could construct allowed for influence by exit poll reports, yet allegedly millions of people are so influenced. I was never so jaundiced as to advocate that we follow the example of France and some other democracies by banning the publication of exit poll results before the polls closed, but I just shook my head at the waste of energy and money for which I had no use.