Do Not Pay Attention to Exit Polls

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Consider this a public service announcement. Do not pay attention to exit polls on the night of a presidential election. For the full explanation, check out Nate Silver, but here’s a crib sheet.

(1) The margin of error is 50-90% higher for exit polls than for regular polls. That means a margin of error as large as 7 or 8 points, a huge number. (2) Exit polling was badly wrong during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, as well as many of the 2008 primaries. (3) The folks who willingly participate in exit polls are never truly random; this time around, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans because of Democrats’ well-established greater enthusiasm for their candidate. (4) A whole host of other reasons.

The solution? Breathe deep and know that you’ll have some serious results from all over the country by 8 pm.

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A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

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