Press Box

Press Box Breaks Exit-Poll Embargo!

Here’s some news you can’t read anyplace else. It’s so hot that it’s not on the cable news networks or even talk radio. And you’re not likely to find it with a search engine. Not at this particular moment at least. As I write, at about 4:30 p.m. ET, the New Hampshire exit polls are producing these numbers from the New Hampshire primary:

John McCain: 49 percent
George W. Bush: 30 percent
Steve Forbes: 11 percent

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On the Democratic side, the numbers are:

Bill Bradley: 50 percent
Al Gore: 48 percent

Now, how can I give you these exit-poll numbers, while your favorite breaking news outlet can’t?  Because the tabulator of exit polls, the VNS consortium, doesn’t release the numbers until the polls are closed. And why is that? Because the VNS members–ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, CNN, and the Associated Press–don’t want to be accused of discouraging voters from casting their late afternoon or evening ballots. The taboo against contaminating the voter turnout is so strong that non-VNS members who learn the numbers don’t release them, either. Of course, the taboo isn’t so strong that it keeps the TV broadcasters who subscribe to the consortium from hinting broadly that “early results indicate a massive McCain victory is taking shape in New Hampshire.”

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How do I come by the numbers? Let’s just say that I have friends, enemies, and acquaintances in the media who have been e-mailing and phoning the latest VNS numbers all day. That’s right, they’re collecting news and distributing it! Such a shocking concept! As new exit-poll data has entered the VNS databank and the statisticians have updated their numbers, so too have my correspondents delivered the latest results to me.

I’m not releasing the exit polls as an act of journalistic delinquency, but because I’m in business to disseminate information, not to withhold it because somebody might use it “incorrectly” by staying home and not voting because their candidate has lost (or won). The self-censorship the media practices on exit polls is based on the idiotic and condescending notion that only members of the media can be trusted with this precious information. But if the media really believes that, why didn’t they censor yesterday’s tracking polls, which aren’t hugely different from today’s results?

Information wants to move. If my friends, enemies, and acquaintances in the media continue to feed me the exit-poll numbers during this campaign, I’ll continue to post the numbers here in real time.

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