Winning Wisconsin: Do Recall Exit Polls Suggest a Blue State in November?

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Did Obama pull off an incredible feat by polling ahead among Walker supporting Wisconsinites, or were exit polls flawed? Photo Credit: US Congress

Republican Governor Scott Walker survived his recall election Tuesday with a 53 to 46 vote. The same electorate suggested via exit polling that it favored President Obama over Mitt Romney by a seven point margin, with 51 percent favoring Obama, and 44 percent favoring Romney.

Some observers dispute the exit poll, since early versions leaked prior to the polls closing Tuesday suggested the gubernatorial recall race was tied — a result that was not indicative of the actual election data.

Are Obama’s positive exit polling results a silver lining for Democrats, or should the exit poll results be regarded as flawed?

How Do Exit Polls Work?

Exit polls are conducted the day of the election.

An independent polling firm interviews voters as they leave voting stations. Interviewers ask voters whom they voted for, and may ask other political and demographic questions as well.

If voters do not want to be questioned, interviewers will usually record the demographic information they can gather by observation. Interviewers and media organizations are instructed to keep results pertaining to the actual election confidential for most of the day, since reporting numbers before many voters make it to the polls can sway elections. Data is often leaked early, however, and demographic information may be reported throughout the day.

Demographic trends reported at the polls are often used to weight projections. Sometimes exit polls account for absentee and early voters by incorporating telephone polling into the exit poll results. This was not done for the Wisconsin recall election, however.

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