Articles and Analysis


Live Blogging Election Night

Topics: 2006 , Exit Polls , The 2006 Race

1:40 am  One more "alert reader" emails:

Actually, "alert reader MW" has it exactly wrong. If you look on the details page for Isle of Wight County, there are 22,861 registered voters in the county. With the count at 6,984 for Allen, 5,050 for Webb, and 163 others, the vote total of 12,197 gives a turnout of 53.35%. If the Webb number were actually 9,050, the turnout would be an absurdly high 70.84%. In addition, all the other races in the county are showing vote totals in the neighborhood of 12,000. So it seems unlikely that the Virginia site is incorrect. Still, with the more complete Virginia numbers (but without the benefit of the AP's extra 4,000 votes), Webb seems to be leading by about 1,500 votes with only a handful of heavily Democratic precincts yet to be counted. This one appears headed for the D column.

I for one, am not nearly alert enough to sort this one out.  Probably a clue to say goodnight and get some sleep.  Thanks to all. 

1:15 am  I have been reviewing the House races paying particular attention to the races I rated as toss-ups based on the surveys conducted in October.  Of the pure toss-ups, those that have declared winners so far are splitting about evenly between Democrats and Republicans.  As of now, I see eight toss-up races going to Democrats and seven to Republicans.   Of course, many more are still being counted decided.

One interesting result involves three districts that showed Democratic challengers leading by a significant margins only when we included the automated Majority Watch surveys in the averages:  New York-25, New York-29 and Ohio-15.  The Republicans incumbents in these three districts were all reelected.**

**Well, not quite.  Apparently, with 1% of the vote uncounted and a two percentage point lead, Pryce has not been declared the winner in Ohio-15.  Thought I saw a check mark next to that one.  My error -- apologies.  

1:03 am  Alert reader  MW writes:

In the last mid-term election Isle of Wight county had 44.5 percent voter turnout.  The 9050 tally for Webb would put it closer to that number, around 48% turnout, based on a 2004 population of 32,774.  The 5050 number would put turnout closer to 39%.  Not that this means anything per se, but the talk has been of higher voter turnout hasn’t it?

11/8 12:28 am  Back home and checking House races.  Some very interesting comments by Pollster readers are ahead of something I just heard on CNN.  The AP results are not matching the official numbers on the Commonwealth of Virginia State Board of Election web site.  This sort of error is not unusual. 

Specifically, this is from reader Jeremy Pressman:

What is with Isle of Wight county?
The state says Webb has 5050 votes while some news organizations say 9050 - obviously a huge difference in that race.

Compare: Virginia State Board of Election and CBS News

A typo??

It has happened before.  But whose typo?

10:52 pm  I am going to need to relocate and will be offline for about 45 minutes. 

10:45 pm  In the comments, Gary Kilbride suggests a great site to look at where the outstanding vote is in Virginia. As of when I last updated the page, 143 precincts were uncounted and about 40 of those precincts come from four jurisdictions (Arlington, Fairfax, Norfolk and Richmond City) that Webb is carrying by margins of 59% or better.  Another 30 are in Loudoun, which Webb is carrying 51% to 48%. 

10:17 pm While my computer was slooowly rebooting ("virtual memory low" I hate that!) reader VZ emailed to remind me that the Montana tabulations are now online at CNN.  An extrapolation on these numbers (which reflects the estimates applied as the polls closed) shows Tester leading by six (52 percent to 46 percent).  Obviously, as the polls closed 15 minutes ago, this margin is not sufficient to call the race.

10:10 pm Promoting a comment from Mark Lindeman:

I've tried to estimate exit poll margins from a few of the tabulations for the 22 Senate polls I have so far (all of which I think I saved before they were updated). Those tabulations presumably are based on composite estimates incorporating pre-election returns.

When I compare the margins to the Pollster.com pre-election average margins, the exit polls appear to be running about 3.8 points more Dem than the pre-election polls -- which suggests that the actual gap could be wider. Several caveats on that: (1) I can already tell that my eyeballed margin in Missouri is about a point too large, so the gap could narrow. (2) Exit poll discrepancies have generally run high in the Northeast, which is overrepresented. The  biggest discrepancies so far appear to be in non-competitive races, with the possible exception of CT. (3) Some part of this may be attributable to Democratic surge, and I don't have enough info yet to estimate that possible effect.

9:45 pm  That last question really gets at something important.  In some ways, it is a bad idea to think of the estimates we can extrapolate from the exit polls cross-tabulation as "exit polls."  That may sound crazy, but the tabulations in states like Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee are now being weighted (or statistically adjusted) to reflect NEP's best estimate of the outcome at any given moment.  Those estimates are gradually being updated to reflect more of the actual vote from the sampled precincts.  That makes these estimates worth looking at -- the network decision desks certainly are. 

On the other hand, the big risk in extrapolating from the exit poll crosstabulations is the considerable lag since they were run.  Right now, the time stamps are 8:38 for Virginia, 8:49 for Tennessee and 8:10 for Missouri.  So take these extrapolated estimates with a big grain of salt:  McCaskill up by 3 in Missouri, but Webb and Ford down by 2 in Virginia and Tennessee respectively. 

If we could look over the shoulders of the decision desk analysts right now, we would probably be seeing different numbers.  Oh to be a fly on the wall in that room. 

9:26 pm  Very alert reader BM emails with a question: "It looks like the exit poll you quoted in the VA senate race has changed and would indicate that Allen has a majority.  Am I missing something?."

Nope, you're not missing a thing.  The tabulation has been updated and Allen now leads by slightly more among both men (55% to 44%), and Webb leads by slightly less among women (53% to 46%).  Notice that the time stamp is 8:38 pm.  What is happening is something I described in this morning's post:  The NEP analysts are gradually replacing the exit poll talleys in each precinct with actual votes from that precinct.  They are also beginning to fill out a second and larger sample of precincts from which they gather hard votes  At any given time, they adjust the exit poll tabulations (displayed on CNN) to match the current estimate considred most reliable.  And that process appears to have shifted the Virginia estimate -- for the moment -- in Allen's favor (roughly 50% to 49%)

8:56 pm  Gary Kilbride has a very good catch in the comments.  The Missouri exit poll is up on CNN.  Those who decided in the last three days (who were 10% of all voters) went for McCaskill 57% to 38%.  Earlier decideds split nearly evenly with 50% for McCaskill, 49% for Talent.  The overall margin in the tabulation is far, far too close to tell us who will win, but given how close the pre-election poll looked, a late break if real would be decisive for McCaskill.

8:45 pm  Not sure what to make of this:  CBS News seems to be calling races much more readily than the other networks.  The just called New Jersey, and an extrapolation on the currrent exit poll tabulation on CNN (with an 8:21 timestamp) shows  Menendez with a roughly 10 point lead (54% to 44%). CNN just called it also. 

8:16 pm LS asks a good question in the comments:  "Why are your blog entries showing a TEN+ MINUTE lag time?"  LS, we have "cached" our servers to handle the very heavy traffic today, and as I understand it, the cache only updates every ten minutes or so.  So, unfortunately, these posts are updating on a ten minute delay.  Also (as with the last update), I'm guessing wrong about how long it takes to write these updates.

8:10 pm Ok, here's another one.  Extrapolate from the vote by gender tabulation now available on CNN and you get a 16 point lead for Democrat Bob Casey (58% to 42%).  CBS has apparently called both Pennsylvania and Ohio for the Democrats, although the other networks I've been monitoring have not.  This should tell us something important:  The analysts are being very cautious about calling the result on exit polls alone.  And these are states with candidates with double digit leads in the estimates applied to the CNN crosstabulations.  For the states with closer margins, those exit polls aren't telling us much. 

7:55 pm  Polls close in five minutes in a bunch of states with closely watched Senate contests, including Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.   

7:43 pm  Interesting.  Want to see the difference between a margin big enough to "call" and election and one that isn't?  Look at Ohio.  Doing the math (all in my spreadsheet this time) the CNN tabulations show Democrat Strickland leading Blackwell in the Governor's race by roughly 26 points (62-36), but Democrat Sherrod Brown leading by 16 (58-42).  The polls have been closed for ten minutes in Ohio and they haven't called it for Sherrod Brown yet.   That should tell you what to think about a margin of less than 3 or 4 points. 

7:20 pm  Ok..here's the way you do the math, and these are not "leaked" results.  From CNN's tabulation.  Virginia:  49% men, 51% women; Allen-Webb 53-46% among men, 43-56% among women.  Allen's approximate number from this tabulation is (.49*.53)+(.51*.43)= .479.485.  Webb's number (.49*.46)+(.51*.56)=51.1 50.5

That's a 3.2 two point margin for Webb which is [still] (a) way too close to call on the exit poll estimate alone and (b) for what it's worth, narrower than the leaked number I saw about an hour ago.   And not surprisingly, we continue to watch. [Sorry about the bad math] 

7:05 pm Right now, if you got to the CNN exit poll page they are reporting the current "cross-tabulations" for each state where the polls are closed. They do not show the current vote estimate, but they do show the vote by gender, as well as the percentage male and female in each state, and it is not exactly rocket science to do the math.  

6:57 pm Something else to remember:  One of the things the network analysts are doing right now is comparing the exit poll results with averages of preelection polls -- averages not unlike those we have posted here on Pollster.com.   If the exit poll result in a state looks out of line with the preelection result, they will not call the election even if the exit poll lead looks statistically significant.  So if you see a "big" lead in a leaked exit poll, but the networks don't call that state when the polls close, you can assume that they are waiting to see hard data to confirm the exit poll result. 

6:40 pm Something to remember about those leaked numbers you may or may not be seeing.  First, if I say it once, I'll say it a thousand times:  A "lead" of 2 or 3 points isn't much of a lead in an exit poll.  We are seeing leaked numbers but we are not seeing the current "status" assigned to that state by the exit pollsters -- whether the lead is statistically significant enough to call the race.   My guess, looking at the leaked numbers, is tha the networks will need hard vote data to call the Senate races we have long considered "toss-ups."

Second, we all need to remember that in 2004, the exit polls had an average error favoring the Democrats of about 5 or 6 points on the margin.  In other words, if 2006 turns out like 2004, a 6 point lead may not be a lead.

6:30 pm - So what is this live blogging thing about?  Two years ago, I vowed not to post leaked exit polls, and kept to that pledge, but in so doing opted out of the opportunity to comment on all the leaked data flying around the blogosphere.  Also, we had just brought our three-day-old son home from the hospital, and so any excuse to avoid the computer was worthy.  Tonight I want to do something different.  The first wave of leaked estimates is now out, and I want to say a few things about it.  I won't post the numbers here (and I'm not sure this will work) but I will try to offer some advice about how to read what you may be seeing. 

Sound crazy?  Maybe, but bear with me.  I'll keep posting to the top of this entry.

6:22 pm - For those who may have missed it at the bottom of the last post, here are the best links I have for the NEP network sites both reporting vote results and (eventually) displaying exit poll cross-tabulations.  When those will appear are anyone's guess. 



Live Blogging Election Night

I hear you on the gender numbers. But look also at the age breakdown. Webb seems further ahead than two points. What gives? Are CNN numbers not adding up?



Interesting ... the MSNBC Flash display keeps alerting "NBC declares Ohio Senate race too close to call" ... THEN it removes that alert and then adds it back again ... and supposedly the display is supposed to update every five minutes but it was almost 30 minutes since the prev update and more than 10 minutes since the last.



My Va people on the ground are a lot more upbeat than your first calculations on the gender numbers....Thanks for the correction below.....oouuf!

Allen's approximate number from this tabulation is (.49*.53)+(.51*.43)=47.9 Webb's number (.49*.46)+(.51*.56)=51.1


Tony v:

These demographic estimates are much more realistic than what was accompanying the early exit polls in 2004 (I remember 55-45 women-men). Do you think they have already been balanced around demographics?



Why are your blog entries showing a TEN+ MINUTE lag time ?


Chris Loosley:

Could the reason for delays in calling Ohio results be that some polls are being kept open until 10:00pm because of voting problems? See talkleft.



Is there any polling data out yet that looks at turnout by age group? I work with the Student PIRGs' New Voters Project (www.newvotersproject.org), and we've been part of an effort to turn out the youth vote.

We've been looking at overall turnout in youth-heavy districts (mostly on or around colleges) as an indication of overall youth turnout, and the numbers have been encouraging (see below: most precincts are up considerably compared to 2002). It would be interesting to compare these numbers to any exit polling that exists.

School (Precinct #) 2002 Turnout / 2006 Turnout (so far)

University of Maryland (21-17) 149 / 200
Ohio State University (16A) 207 / 208
Ohio State University (39A) 180 / 263
Ohio State University (40B) 175 / 185
Ohio State University (41A) 103 / 141
Ohio State University (41B) 182 / 227
Ohio State University (41C) 89 / 121
Ohio State University (41D) 104 / 174
Ohio State University (41E) 110 / 220
Ohio State University (16C) 197 / 216
Ohio State University (16D) 141 / 174
Ohio State University (18A) 316 / 375
Ohio State University (18C) 379 / 440
University of Colorado Boulder (102) 169 / 200
University of Colorado Boulder (103) 77 / 140
University of Colorado Boulder (118) 51 / 105
University of Northern Colorado (315&329) 244 / 329
University of Michigan (4-1) 241 / 256
University of Michigan (1-7) 230 / 250


Gary Kilbride:

The Missouri exit poll is up also on CNN. Equates to a narrow margin for McCaskill. The late decider numbers are overwhelming in favor of McCaskill, among the most decisive I've ever seen in a race that was basically 50/50 for months. If this holds up and Democrats take senate control via this result, it came down to the final days and broke for McCaskill.




When a campaign says internal polling is showing better results than those generally available is it always false bravado or do they really have targeted polling supporting their candidate?



I love how a couple media outlets are giving New Jersey to D-Menendez however at this point R-Kean leads the voting by 7,000 votes. Just funny.



Looking at the results in House races and comparing them to Charlie Cook's list of races, it looks like a lot of the closest races are in the category "Republican tossup". There are 38 "Republican Toss Ups" and 25 races that are more favorable to the Dems. If the hot races are in the Republican Toss Up column that sounds like results closer to 35 perhaps even 40 seats switching. That's a pretty big wave.


Pat Ross:

The exit poll percentages on CNN are now different than your original post. Recalculating the marginals now gives Allen the lead in the exit poll.

Why might the exit poll percentages have changed?



This is completely ridiculous!
CNN and MSNBC are predicting races before even 10% of the votes are in! Maryland was checked off for Cardin with only 1% of precincts reporting. More ridiculously, Maryland gubernatorial and Connecticut senatorial races are going the other way than the predictions!

Have they learned anything from 2000?


Mark Lindeman:

I've tried to estimate exit poll margins from a few of the tabulations for the 22 Senate polls I have so far (all of which I think I saved before they were updated). Those tabulations presumably are based on composite estimates incorporating pre-election returns.

When I compare the margins to the Pollster.com pre-election average margins, the exit polls appear to be running about 3.8 points more Dem than the pre-election polls -- which suggests that the actual gap could be wider. Several caveats on that: (1) I can already tell that my eyeballed margin in Missouri is about a point too large, so the gap could narrow. (2) Exit poll discrepancies have generally run high in the Northeast, which is overrepresented. The biggest discrepancies so far appear to be in non-competitive races, with the possible exception of CT. (3) Some part of this may be attributable to Democratic surge, and I don't have enough info yet to estimate that possible effect.


Gary Kilbride:

Here's the Virginia vote by county, which gives you an idea of outstanding precincts and who they may favor.



Mark Lindeman:

I am going to go to bed soon, since I sort of need to be conscious tomorrow. I now have exit tabs for all the Senate races with exits, and the average Dem margin is 4 points larger than the pre-election poll margin. Washington just came in at Cantwell 60/37 or so. Interesting if true.

Some of the gap may be due to surge -- this appears to be true in NY at this moment. If the exits are Just Off again, then one wonders what to make of Tester's apparent 7-point lead in the Montana exits.


Rick Brady:

Mark L, you are a slacker ;-)

Surge? You can answer that by comparing the exits to the tallies. I think some three-way analysis (exits, pre-election, and official vote counts) would be insightful. I wish I had time. I'd crunch some numbers for you. Maybe after finals (12/7 or later).


Tim Watts:

Hello American Friends,

I work in Politics in Australia and have been watching the coverage of the Mid-Terms today.

I have two questions re the US coverage that I'd be interested if you have any insights into:

1. Why is there so little data/awareness from the pundits of booth (polling place) data? Frequently during the coverage pundits have said "Here are the results, but we don't know if it accurately reflects each candidates strongholds". My question is - why? Australian election pundits are able to contact party scrutineers for information about where returns have come from. This would dramatically improve the usefulness of the coverage.

2. Why is there no use of national swing (national % change in party vote) or pendulum information? While there is never a uniform national swing, knowing the average swing neccessary to cause a change in control in the house/senate is a useful analytical tool. See the link below



Gary Kilbride:

CNN is now reporting Webb with a 2500 vote lead. But it doesn't jive with the link I posted earlier. CNN has Webb leading at roughly 1,141,000 to 1,138,000. However, the link makes those numbers strange, perhaps counted or reported in a different order, since the link currently has Allen ahead roughly 1,139,000 to 1,137,000.


Elizabeth Liddle:

Time for me to go to bed - my alarm clock will go off in an hour or so....

Thanks for all your hard work!



Jeremy Pressman:

re: Virginia senate

What is with Isle of Wight county?
The state says Webb has 5050 votes while some news organizations say 9050 - obviously a huge difference in that race.




A typo??


How is Lieberman's vote being counted? CNN indicates this race is one where "the party changed hands" but does not so indicate in its overall tally. It shows three Demo gains (OH, PA, RI) but no gains for "independents" nor republicans. Shouldn't he be counted among the Republicans now?


Sorry to double post - but the MSNBC site reminds me that there are two official independents in the Senate now (VT, CT) and the total is 49 d, 46 r, 2 I, with 3 outstanding (MT, MO, VA).

Saunders votes with the Dems doesn't he? And Lieberman promised to (?) - that would give Dems control? but noone is saying this, so I assume I am wrong about something.


VA's board of election web site indicates 22,868 registered voters in Isle of Wright co. on 11/1/06
www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms and then a very long link after that.

In 2004, Kerry got 5,871 votes and Bush 9,929 out of a total of 15,871 cast.

And it was 46 D, 49 R, 2 I (I goofed) so other sites are counting VT and CT as Dem seats. Never mind ...



Judging from the state website, Isle of Wight County has always run a few points more Republican than the rest of the state in previous elections. So it would be surprising if Webb got 9050 there, since that would mean the county was running much more Democratic than the rest of the state.

The state website is: http://www2.sbe.virginia.gov/Election/results/Index.htm


Matt H.:

Despite the Isle of Wight 4000 vote difference between the VA State Board of Elections website and the CBS/CNN/FOX totals, all parties now show a Webb lead, though of slightly different proportions (VASBE shows Webb up 1524, CBS/CNN/FOX show Webb up 2726). I have no idea how those numbers actually add up to that result.

But my real question is, how do news organizations get vote tallies? Do they contact precincts individually? Or do they get their numbers from state boards of elections / secretaries of state? Do they get them from some central distributor (maybe the AP or the NEP)? Given that all three of these news organizations show exactly the same numbers it's safe to say they use the same source, but what is that source?



Before we chalk VA up for the Dems, I think I remember that there are approximately 100,000 absentee votes in the state that are uncounted. They will most likely be a great help to Allen.


Marc Gans:

In the past 10 minutes, all the voting data from Yellowstone County has disappeared! The last I saw Tester was slightly ahead with over 40% of precincts reporting. Now no votes are showing up.


What is going on?!



The Yellowstone disappearance is pretty bizarre. Even stranger are the current CBS numbers - right now, it lists virtually every political subdivision with about 100,000 votes, and virtually no precincts reporting. CBS seems to think Montana has the population of California.


Gary Kilbride:

The Yellowstone County recount was supposedly caused by a software flitch that reset the count to zero. Tester had slightly less than a 1300 vote lead in that county then Burns led immediately once the recount began.

Does not appear there are enough outstanding votes for Burns to make up the deficit.

That's another pinpoint exit poll, the +7 that Mark Lindeman mentioned. My previous rule was subtract 4 to be safe, in a competitive race. Now subject to an uptick.

Actually the Missouri exit poll was strangely accurate.

BTW, I checked the late deciders to see if it held up toward the Democrat in other pivotal senate races. Nope. McCaskill was the only one with a major edge. Late choosers broke toward Burns and slightly toward Allen, while the Ford race was basically even.

At quick glance, pre-election polling in senate and gov races was very accurate this year. Although Alaska continued its polling tradition of overstating the Democrat. But maybe that's confined to Tony Knowles. Seems like he's 80% of the sample.



Hello all.

Quick question. Does anyone know what the aggregate total votes was for Democratic Congressional candidates was? Do we have as many seats as we should, using past results as a frame of reference, or did gerrymandering impact the total?



Mark Lindeman:

Heh -- I just now noticed Rick's question. Just on my preliminary numbers of this morning, it appears that there's about a two-point average gap between pre-election poll margin and vote margin, and another two-point average gap between vote margin and composite exit poll margin. Actually, the 'surge' gap appears to be a bit smaller and the 'red shift' gap a bit larger, but my numbers are rough.

Bear in mind, however, that the estimates used in the tabulation probably incorporate pre-election expectations. So the gap between vote margin and interview-only exit poll margin is presumably larger. Maybe more like 4 points. (If the composite were an average, it would be more like 6 points.)

My two-point 'surge' for all Senate races basically matches the table that Mark B. posted for most competitive races this morning.

All numbers subject to revision if I ever wake up.


Mark Lindeman:

I should've said, in 2004 the composite was nothing like an average of pre-election and interviews. The average error (discrepancy) was -5.0 in the Best Geo, -3.6 in the Composite. That gap would have been larger if the Composite were an average.

So I'm thinking the average gap is maybe somewhere between 3 and 4 points, maybe. (By the way, I should also say that what I called "interview-only" projections incorporate lots of other things -- just not pre-election polls, nor actual vote counts from the present election.)


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