Saturday, May 03, 2008

Exit Polls | Take Two

Readers may recall that we voiced some concern with regards to exit polls. Here is a fascinating account, first-hand, by a reputed pollster having what they describe as an "Adventure in Baku". It is a salutary tale, and again shows that exit polls are not the quick fix they often are believed to be -- even when organisations such as Mitofsky International, bringing extraordinary experience get involved. As the authors conclude:

"One should never go through an experience like this without taking away something for the future. The number one lesson here is that public polling is difficult to do for organizations other than the media and for organizations that have a long history of publication of survey results, regardless of the direction of the findings. This criterion is met in the United States by foundations that sponsor polls, many government agencies, and private companies. However, if one chooses to work, as we did, for organizations with no known record for open availability of the survey findings, caveat emptor."
Well, OK. And who outside the US (and in a transition context) meets these criteria? At a very minimum, the old virtues of total transparency are critical for getting it right. But even then, huge challenges remain that cast serious doubts on the accuracy of any such enterprise, especially in a really competitive environment. Who in their right mind would have serious confidence in nuanced district level results, given the extensive problems described?

Highly recommended reading (it's entertaining, too), you find the article here.


cequirk2002 said...

Caveat Emptor indeed Mr. Mitofsky! Mitofsky violated his own principles and methodology by never revealing who paid for his exit poll. I tried to fit the exit poll into the larger strategy of GovAZ in this post (

Daria Vaisman wrote an excellent article about this fiasco in the New Republic called Poll Stir (not available online).

I don't understand why this Mitofsky piece is circulating again now, two years after the fact.

HansG said...

Christine, thanks. Good question why it circulates. We only noticed it now.

Do you think the incident teaches larger lessons about exit polls? Or is that AZE specific?

I will ask Daria whether she can make the article available to people that are interested.