MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Clinton won more women, Sanders did well with younger voters, conservative Evangelicals trended toward Cruz and Trump picked up votes across the board. Details like that had Cathy from Dayton wondering how we know so much about voters. How do exit polls work? Good Question.
In New Hampshire, about 2000 Democrats and 2000 Republicans were given questionnaires moments after they cast their ballots.
“Exit polls work just like all other good polls do,” Rob Daves, a consultant on market and public opinion research for Daves & Associates Research, said. “They take a random sample of voters who are sampled as they exit a polling place.”
The interviewer stops every nth person – it could be 4th, 6th, 10th depending on the poll – and hands them a secret written ballot. The questionnaire is generally one-page long and asks questions on everything from age, race, income, education, political philosophy and more.
“The interviewer doesn’t have a clip board and says who did you vote for? It’s nothing like that. It’s totally anonymous,” Daves said.
The polls are paid for by the National Election Pool, a consortium of CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN and the Associated Press and conducted by polling company Edison Research. Edison said for a national election, it requires almost 3,000 people, including interviewers, phone operators, reporters, researchers, technical support and system specialists.
During Minnesota elections, interviewers are allowed to stand right outside polling places, but cannot be inside.
“It provides us with incredibly valuable information about why people voted,” Daves said.