Of Expectations And Exit Polls

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THE PLANK MAY 5, 2008

Of Expectations And Exit Polls

I spent some time watching MSNBC and CNN today to try and get a sense of the media's expectations for tomorrow, and how those expectations could be affected by early exit polls. The basic consensus seems to be what Noam outlines here:

I don't know precisely where that leaves us,
but, qualitatively, I'd guess we're looking at a "solid, but not as big
as it could have been" win for Hillary in Indiana, and a
"closer-than-expected, but not super-close" win for Obama in North
Carolina.

Based on what people were saying on television today, I'd say the CW is that Obama wins NC by 6-10 points and Hillary Clinton wins Indiana by 3-6 points. But the interesting question will be what the early exit polls say. If, as has been the case time-and-again, the early numbers show Obama with a double digit lead in North Carolina and perhaps a small edge in Indiana, the scenario outlined above may be reported as a disappointment for Obama. Remember, the night before Pennsylvania, many in the media were saying that a nine point Clinton win would not be so bad for Obama. Of course when the exit polls showed an even race at 5pm, all the pundits began to write Clinton off, only to later argue that Obama had disappointed. 

On the other hand, perhaps the early North Carolina voting Noam mentions (which has favored Obama), and the large concentration of African Americans in the state, will lead to exit polls showing Clinton close in NC. Of course in that scenario, Obama could wind up with a nine point win that the media reports as a blowout. 

Anyway, 6-10 and 3-6 percent in NC and Indiana, respectively, are the baselines. If the pundits tell you anything else late tomorrow night, the exit polls may be to blame. 

--Isaac Chotiner 

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posted in: the plank, hillary clinton, indiana, north carolina

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