The first results are now available from the New Hampshire exit polls. They show an increasingly polarized electorate—both more liberal and more conservative than in 2012. Voters are frustrated, fearful, and angry—trends that were particularly pronounced in the Republican primary. About a quarter of Democrats, but more than half of GOP voters, wanted a candidate from “outside the political establishment,” ABC reported. Republican voters were also more concerned about the threat of terrorism, three-quarters were very worried about the economy, and two-thirds would support a temporary ban on Muslims who are not U.S. citizens entering the country.
In what may be a worrisome sign for Marco Rubio, 45 percent of Republican voters said that they had made up their minds in the last few days, and 65 percent said that the last debate was a factor in their decision, said CNN.
Exit polls are conducted by a media consortium, which pays interviewers to approach voters as they exit the polls (hence the name) and ask them a detailed set of questions. Those answers are then compiled to reveal the correlations between the demographic profiles of voters, their opinions, and the votes they actually cast.
They’re an invaluable tool, when an election is over, for figuring out why it turned out as it did. But they’re largely useless for predicting who will win. The interviewers are only present at a relative handful of sites. Some sorts of voters may be particularly likely to decline to participate; others may not answer accurately. After the votes are counted, pollsters can make statistical adjustments as the results roll in, to make their data line up with the actual shape of the voting public. But at this stage, the data on which candidates are up and which are trailing are worse than useless—they’re actively misleading. The preliminary data on demographics and opinion are more useful, but may still shift based on additional interviews before the polls close, and statistical adjustments made afterwards.