Exit Poll Updates Are Giving Us Answers

by Cate Carrejo

What might have been the most collectively anxious day in American history is almost over, and the results of the 2016 presidential election are in, sort of. Thanks to Election Day exit poll updates, the country has a relatively good idea of who will be the next president, and how the various voting blocks cast their ballots. Although exit polls aren't perfect, it's nice to have a little empirical foresight into the future, which has felt so unpredictable for so long.

The big issue with exit polls is that they can't actually be cross-referenced with ballots to conclusively verify the results. Ballots don't ask people to list any of their descriptive demographics, such as age, gender, marital status, etc., so exit polls are people's best bet in determining early results and voting blocks' turnout. As such, the first wave of exit poll information can be a little misleading, since they aren't weighted for demographics until days after the election. Exit polls also tend to favor Democrats and miss people who vote later in the day, so clearly they need to be taken with a grain of salt. However, they can certainly ease tensions and help people organize through the chaos of Election Day, so they're not all bad.

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Early exit poll results revealed some interesting and potentially mixed results, not about who the winner will be, but about what people want in the winner. First, the Clinton campaign seems to have been more ready and organized for Election Day — the Democratic camp has contacted approximately 17 percent of voters for exit polling, while the Trump campaign has contacted only about eight percent of all voters. Clinton seems to have a stronger ground game, just like President Obama's winning campaign in 2008, but one of the responses in those exit polls may point to trouble for Clinton as well.

When asked what the most important characteristic is in the next president, 36 percent of exit poll respondents said that they wanted a "strong leader." Traditionally, leadership qualities are associated with men, and a big part of Trump's candidacy has been focused on his claim that he would be strong. With the confluence of gender bias and Trump's misogynistic insistence that Clinton can't be a strong leader, Clinton may have a slight disadvantage. Clinton has faced sexism in other areas of the race and still managed to overcome and make it this far, but it still may affect the final results.

Thankfully, exit polls can help everyone make some sense out of Election Day and provide a little relief from the stress of this campaign season. These statistics aren't perfect and may be revised as more information comes in, but at least they're here to help everyone get through this day.