A Brief History Of: Exit Polls

Alex Wong / Getty

In the old days, networks used exit polls to beat rivals to the punch. Now they're all in it together.

On Nov. 4, in a room somewhere in New York City, cut off from the outside world, a small group of media representatives will spend hours poring over polling data from around the country. No cell phones or Internet connections will be allowed, and the group will not emerge until 5 p.m. E.T. These people are part of the National Election Pool (NEP)--and they owe their monastic retreat to a long-running debate on how early election reports can affect the outcome of a race.

Networks began exit polling--surveying people leaving voting locations about the ballots they cast--in the 1960s, and it...

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