Who is winning the election — Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? That’s a question election officials don’t want answered prematurely this election year. So the major news networks have agreed to keep a tight lid on early exit poll results, which includes guarding against leaks via social media.
The Huffington Post reports news execs have committed not to broadcast exit data before polls close in each state. They will also avoid sharing early results with news staff, in attempt to prevent social media leaks.
In past presidential elections, early exit poll data has proven wrong. John Kerry was projected to win in 2004, and an Al Gore victory was projected in Florida in 2000, prompting confusion that led to massive recounts and lawsuits. Still some fear early data may discourage people from voting in a state they believe to be already called for one candidate or another.
Smaller news outlets are not part of the network agreement, and so early data is bound to make its way to social media. Tom Rosenstiel of the Pew research Center says if misleading exit poll results do get out, the damage could be widespread. Rosenstiel says, “With Internet penetration and the speed of social media, that (data) would be known pretty widely.”