Dale Tavris -- World News Trust
July 1, 2018
Election Fraud in the United States: 2004 to Present
Part III. The Validity of Exit Polls for Monitoring Elections
Before I begin to discuss the validity of exit polls for monitoring elections, I need to clarify a couple of issues: First, I recognize that there are certain problems with exit polls. The question that we need to deal with is not whether they are perfect. The question we need to address is whether they are useful enough to serve as a warning sign of election fraud that requires further investigation.
The known vulnerability of our election system to electronic vote manipulation/fraud is well accepted. There may be disagreement on exactly how vulnerable it is, but nobody can argue that it isn’t highly vulnerable. So the relevant question becomes: Is it possible that the presence of widespread electronic vote tampering could make exit polls a more reliable estimate of voter intent than official election results; and if so, would it be worth thoroughly investigating elections whenever exit polls diverge substantially from official vote counts?
Secondly, we are dealing here with a situation where the concern is much greater than whether elections for federal office are occasionally stolen. As noted in Part II, we are dealing with a situation where we have systematic divergence of exit polls from official vote counts, every election cycle, pointing in the same direction -- favoring the more right-wing candidate in the official count, compared to exit polls. Notwithstanding the fact that exit polls have some problems, we need to ask why exit poll discrepancies from official vote counts almost always point in the same direction. Does it make more sense to postulate that exit polls are routinely and systematically biased towards the more left-wing candidate? Or does it make more sense that some rich and powerful people, who tend to be right wing on economic issues, choose to use their money and power in illegal and immoral ways to safeguard their economic interests?
That being said, let’s quickly consider the three reasons why exit polls might diverge from official vote counts:
With that in mind, let’s consider the accuracy of exit polls:
Exit polls are often used in other countries to monitor elections
In Germany, as soon as the polls close, polling agencies release prognoses that have proven highly reliable. In the three most recent national elections there, poll percentages diverged from official counts by an average of only 0.26 percent.
Election fraud revealed by exit polls forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down as President of the Republic of Georgia in 2003. It has been argued by those wishing to minimize the importance of exit polls that other indications of election fraud were more important than exit polls in revealing the election fraud. I don’t wish to argue that point. The more important points are that: 1) Exit polls were thought to be important enough to be used as a method of monitoring the election; and 2) Those exit polls did indeed reveal a discrepancy with the official results large enough to be indicative of election fraud.
In November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- showed Victor Yanukovych with a 3 percent victory margin over Victor Yushchenko. However, exit polls suggested otherwise (one predicted an 11 percent victory margin for Yushchenko), and that in combination with the identification of various election irregularities and abuses, resulted in an overturning of the election and a re-vote, which Yushchenko won. It’s somewhat ironic and revealing that that was the same year and month that exit polls in the U.S. Presidential election predicted John Kerry winning the election (both the popular and the electoral vote), while the official vote count gave it to Bush. In that election, there were also many substantial election “irregularities” noted, especially in Ohio, which was the critical state in awarding Bush an Electoral College victory and demonstrated a huge red shift (6.7 percent). Yet our national news media said nothing about the national or the Ohio red shift, and very little official investigation was done.
But the hypocrisy gets even worse. Douglas Schoen was a Democratic campaign consultant for more than 30 years. He wrote a book titled “The Power of the Vote -- Electing Presidents, Overthrowing Dictators and Promoting Democracy Around the World,” in which he gives numerous examples of how his exit polls, combined with vote recounts when necessary, helped to preserve democracy in various countries. Specifically, he explains how exit polls: proved decisive in removing Slobodan Milosevic from the Serbian presidency in 2000; helped to ensure a fair election in Mexico in 2000; played a decisive role in electing Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City in 2001; and led to the reversal of the official results of the Ukraine presidential election of 2004, thus elevating Viktor Yushchenko to the Ukrainian presidency. So, what does he have to say about the substantial red shift in the 2004 Presidential election? Schoen dismisses this whole thing with a single phrase in his book, referring to it as an “exit poll debacle.”
Exit polls are used frequently in the United States for other purposes
Our national news media remains silent about exit polls except to discredit them when they feel that there is too much concern in our country about the election fraud that they point towards. Yet they use exit polls themselves to call elections early and to display voting preferences by demographic and other voter characteristics (for example, voting preferences by age, race, gender, income, education, etc.).
In the 2016 Maryland Democratic primary, for example, they called the state for Hillary Clinton with 0.0 percent of the vote in. In other words, in that case, they used only exit poll data to call the election immediately after the polls closed. How can they claim that exit polls are useless for monitoring the integrity of elections, and yet call an election based on nothing but exit poll data?
When they display “exit polls” as indicating voting preferences by voter characteristics, before they display the poll they statistically “adjust” the data so that the total vote count conforms to the official vote count. Although they call these displays “exit polls,” they are really a combination of an exit poll and the official vote count. The total vote count they are displaying represents the official vote count, while the relative count by voter characteristics represents the exit poll data. But if they believe that exit polls are worthless as estimates of total vote counts, how can they believe that they have any validity as indicators of relative vote counts by voter characteristics?
Lame and invalid arguments by our national corporate news media used to discredit exit polls
As I previously noted, the power structure in our country either totally ignores the issue of election fraud and the potential for exit polls to monitor them by demonstrating discrepancies from the official vote count or, when pressured to rebut the accusations of election integrity organizations, they provide arguments that are disingenuous at best.
The best example I can think of is an article by Nate Silver titled “Ten Reasons Why You Should Ignore Exit Polls."A major reason why I say that this is the best example that I can think of is that Nate Silver is perhaps the most well-known and highly regarded pollster in our country. Consequently, when most people read this article they take it at face value. Indeed, I have heard it cited by many people in arguing that exit polls are totally useless for monitoring elections. Yet none of the 10 reasons for ignoring exit polls that Silver cites in his article is, in fact, a valid reason for ignoring exit polls or for suggesting that they aren’t of value in monitoring elections.
Rather than discuss each of his points separately, I will first group his points into categories because some of his individual reasons are highly duplicative with others. I guess he had to do that in order to reach 10 reasons. He is far too intelligent to write something with so much fallacious reasoning, so I assume that he was heavily persuaded to do it. I discuss his 10 points in detail in this post. Here I will just summarize why we should ignore his advice on this:
1) Some of his reasons to ignore exit polls (2, 3, 5, and 10) clearly exhibit circular reasoning. He says in various ways that we should ignore them because they have been shown to be wrong in the past. But they definitely have NOT been shown to be wrong in the past. What they have shown is that they often deviate from the official election results (again, they almost always favor the more right-wing candidate in the official count). To say that this proves them to be wrong is classical circular reasoning. What such deviations show is that either the exit poll is wrong, or the official count is wrong (i.e. rigged).
2) Another three of Silver’s reasons involve problems that can be so easily fixed that it is hard to imagine why he would bother mentioning them at all if not because he was pressured to find a way to discredit exit polls.
Reason # 1 states that “Exit polls have a much larger margin for error than regular polls” because of the cluster sampling that is used related to the precincts that are sampled in exit polls. What’s the big deal? Use appropriate statistical tests to measure the margin of error. Problem solved.
Reason # 7 states that “Exit polls may miss late voters.”Silver makes no statement about how frequently this occurs or why it would happen. Common sense tells us that the only reason that exit polls may miss late voters would be if the pollsters quit working while the polls are still open. If that does happen (Silver doesn’t say that it happens, only that it may happen), the problem could be easily fixed by telling the pollsters to keep working until he polls close.
Reason # 8 states that “’Leaked’ exit polls may not be the genuine article.”. Silver clarifies this statement by saying that sometimes exit polls are leaked early and are therefore incomplete. He ought to know that the election integrity people who leak exit polls to the public always note the time of the exit poll, and the only ones that they use in their analyses are those that are captured very late in the day. Why is it a problem that exit polls may sometimes be leaked early, as long as those exit polls are not the ones that are used to assess the integrity of the election?
3) The other three reasons that Silver mentions (4, 6, and 9) have to do with methodological issues that are similar, worse or much worse for pre-election polls. This is important to note because Silver’s career and reputation are based on his analysis of pre-election polls, for which he has an excellent record of accuracy (until the 2016 Presidential election, which stymied virtually all pollsters). Would he tell people to ignore pre-election polls for the very same reason that he tells us to ignore exit polls?
Furthermore, he doesn’t balance his discussion by noting some very substantial advantages that exit polls have over pre-election polls -- far more substantial than the reasons he gives for ignoring them. The very substantial advantages that exit polls have over pre-election polls are:
1) They assess how the voter actually voted rather than how s/he intends to vote at a later time;
2) Pre-election polls rely on models to estimate who likely voters will be. Different pollsters use different models to estimate that, and obviously some of them are wrong. Sometimes most of them are wrong. Exit polls have no need for such models. Each respondent to an exit poll has approximately a 100 percent chance of voting because s/he has already voted, and;
3) despite the problems that exit polls have in obtaining a true random sample of voters, the problems with obtaining a true random sample with pre-election polls are far worse for the very simple reason that many voters cannot be sampled at all because they are unobtainable by phone.
The methodological issues that Silver brings up are valid criticisms of exit polls. They indicate a potential for exit polls to be biased. But that doesn’t make them less trustworthy than our highly suspect official vote counts, nor does it constitute a reason for ignoring exit polls or not using them to monitor our elections.
Exit polls in the 2016 Republican primaries
As noted above, exit polls in the 2016 Democratic primaries demonstrated 10 states with statistically significant red shifts at the 0.05 level, which our national news media ignored except in their attempts to argue that exit polls are unreliable.
But if substantial exit poll discrepancies in the 2016 Democratic primaries were indicative only of the poor reliability of exit polls rather than election fraud, then why were exit polls so similar to the official vote count for the Republican primaries (scroll down)? I’ll suggest a reason why: In the Republican 2016 primaries, election fraud wasn’t worth the effort. All the candidates were plenty enough right wing to satisfy whoever might have otherwise considered manipulating the electronic vote.
Assessment of bias in the 2004 Presidential election exit polls
With the noting of the massive red shifting in the 2004 Presidential election, the knee-jerk response of our national news media was to assume that the only legitimate explanation for the red shift was that there was something wrong with the exit polls, rather than consider the possibility that there may have been a problem with the election itself. Warren Mitofsky, whose firm conducted the exit polling conducted a quick analysis and produced a report that supported the news media assumptions.
Of course, he had to come up with an explanation for the red shifts. His explanation was: “Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters” (known as the reluctant Bush respondent hypothesis, or rBr). This was stated by Mitofsky as a conclusion rather than as a hypothesis, though there was no decent explanation in his report to back it up. This is the explanation that Mitofski came up with:
It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons that, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters…. We can identify some factors that appear to have contributed, even in a small way, to the discrepancy. These include:
What Mitofski identified was that those factors were associated with lower response rates, not that Bush voters were less likely than Kerry voters to respond to the exit poll (which there would have been no way to know because the pollsters didn’t know who the non-responders voted for). He merely assumed that Bush voters were less likely to respond. So how did all these factors support the contention that Bush voters were less likely to participate in the exit polls than Kerry voters? Mitofsky doesn’t explain this in his report. Nor does the report contain any quantitative assessment of the extent to which he believes that the above factors caused exit poll bias.
So, an election integrity organization, U.S. Count Votes (USCV), decided to analyze the data themselves to test the rBr hypothesis. If the reluctant Bush respondent hypothesis was valid, one would expect the lowest voter response rates to occur mostly in precincts that leaned heavily to Bush. However, when USCV analyzed the data presented in the Mitofsky report, they found exactly the opposite: Precincts with the highest percentage of Bush voters had the highest, not the lowest response rate. This must certainly strongly count against the reluctant Bush respondent hypothesis. Yet that hypothesis was put forward in the Mitofsky report and thus in the national news media as the primary explanation for the difference between the exit poll results and the official vote count (i.e. the red shift).
Following the publicization of the study by U.S. Count Votes, the rBr hypotheses was revised to say that, although Bush voters, in general, were more reluctant to participate in the polls than Kerry voters, this did not apply to precincts where there were a very high percentage of Bush voters, because in those precincts the Bush voters would perhaps feel more comfortable participating in a poll.
This revised hypothesis was also tested by U.S. Count Votes. If the hypothesis applied only to precincts without a heavy preponderance of Bush voters, then one would expect that those precincts would be where the highest red shifts would be found. But in fact, by Mitofsky’s own data, precisely the opposite was the case.
Less discrepancy between exit polls and official results when hand counted paper ballots are used
If electronic manipulation of the vote is the primary means of election fraud, then we should expect to see less discrepancy between exit polls and official vote counts where paper ballots are counted by hand. That is the only method of vote counting that does not rely on computers, and it is generally accepted that it is the method of vote counting that is least vulnerable to fraud.
That is exactly what was shown in Mitofski’s report of exit polling in the 2004 Presidential election. His report shows the relevant table, but he made no comment on it. In that report, a statistical concept known as “within precinct error” (WPE) was used as an indicator of red shift, with negative values indicating red shift. In the table, the WPE for precincts that used hand counted paper ballots was -2.2, while the WPE for all other methods of voting varied between -6.1 and -10.6.
The 2016 Democratic primary in Massachusetts was one of several that demonstrated a red shift beyond the statistical margin of error. The exit poll showed a 6.6 percent Sanders victory, while Clinton won the official vote count by 1.4 percent. But in the 68 towns that used hand counting of paper ballots as their vote counting method, Sanders won by a margin of 17.9 percent.
Overview of exit poll accuracy
No knowledgeable person claims that exit polls provide perfectly accurate results. But neither should any knowledgeable person assume without adequate investigation that discrepancies between exit polls and official vote counts are due to faulty exit polls rather than faulty elections.
Exit polls are used in other countries to monitor elections, often with U.S. assistance. Our national corporate news media makes great efforts to discredit the accuracy of exit polls, and yet they use them to call elections early and to show Demographic and other voter characteristic patterns of voting. Their arguments that they use to discredit exit polls and their use for monitoring elections do not hold up under any scrutiny. Exit polls used in elections pitting only highly right- wing candidates against each other (thus providing less incentive for election fraud) closely mimic official election results. Exit polls used in locations that use only hand counted paper ballots as a method of vote counting (and thus are far less susceptible to election fraud) more closely mimic official election results than when other methods of vote counting are used. When theories of exit poll bias have been proclaimed they have not held up under scientific testing.
In the next four parts of this series, I will discuss other evidence for election fraud, beyond the known susceptibility of our voting system to fraud and discrepancies between exit polls and official election results.
PART III: The Validity of Exit Polls for Monitoring Elections
Dale Tavris has worked as a public health physician/epidemiologist for 40 years, with state departments of public health, the U.S. Air Force, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Food and Drug Administration. In that capacity, he has authored 39 publications in peer-reviewed medical or public health journals.
Since 2004 he has been actively involved in the national election reform movement, serving in a volunteer capacity with the Election Defense Alliance for a few years as their data coordinator.
He has written dozens of online articles about election fraud. In 2007 he co-authored a journal article on election fraud: “Fingerprints of Election Theft: Were Competitive Contests Targeted.”
Tavris has written and published three books, including two of a political nature: “The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals,” 2011; and “Democracy Undone: Unequal Representation, the Threat to our Election System, and the Impending Demise of American Democracy,” 2012.