Dominican students lead national exit poll study

Political science students are participating in a national research project designed by their professor focused on voting differences across the country and the media’s use of exit polls.

The Dominican students, using a specially designed I-Pad application, will ask voters a series of questions designed to determine voting preferences, party affiliation, and key issues that influenced their vote.

The students will be stationed outside three Marin County precincts on November 6 from 7 a.m. until polls close at 8 p.m. Two sites are in San Rafael and one is in Corte Madera.

Students will collect and analyze “real time” data in order to understand not only how exit polls are conducted and reported, but also how Marin County voters fit into the broader electoral landscape, said Alison Howard, assistant professor of Political Science at Dominican.

Once data is captured, the students will study the differences among voters in other areas of the country and compare these results to national exit polls. This project also is being conducted by students at the University of West Florida; Merrimack College in Massachusetts; and Wells College in New York.

“Exit polls serve a unique purpose among the array of survey data collected during elections and are typically used by media outlets to assess voting on election night,” Howard said.

“Yet the desire to be the “first” to report the projected winner leads media outlets to use exit poll data to project (or some might say predict) who won and not just as a source to examine trends among voters.”

Exit polls are a valuable resource for examining the electorate and their preferences and can tell researchers, campaign strategists, and the general public what voters are thinking and how they are making their decisions during a given election. Getting the most accurate reflection of the electorate on Election Day is important for both projections and for research. It will ultimately shape future campaigns.

Howard, in conjunction with Soomo Publishing, developed the exit poll assignment, and the data collected will be aggregated by Soomo Publishing in an online platform in order to provide immediate access to data.

“It will be exciting for our students to compare and contrast results from across the country and to compare to the exit polls reported by the media on election night,” Howard said.

This exit poll project is an assignment in Dominican’s “Campaigns and Elections” course. Students will work in pairs and will be assigned to specific precincts and will sign up to serve two-hour shifts throughout the day on November 6.

Media Contact: Sarah Gardner, (415) 485-3239 or [email protected].

Click here to watch KPIX-TV CBS 5 video of students being interviewed.