Nearly 600 college students from six universities throughout Utah will work long hours on Election Day to conduct the Utah Colleges Exit Poll, the longest running student-run exit poll in the country.
The poll is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. This year, the Utah Colleges Exit Poll will be the only statewide exit poll being conducted.
The results of the poll, which has proven very accurate over its 26-year history, will be available upon the closing of the polls at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6. KBYU-TV (Channel 11) will provide a live broadcast of the results as a part of its election programming. Press releases and survey questionnaires will be available at exitpoll.byu.edu. Custom analysis will also be available upon request.
Since early September, about three dozen students in the BYU Political Science and Statistics Departments have been organizing this year’s exit poll. The work includes drawing a random sample, designing the surveys, training students as Election Day interviewers, programming computer systems for data entry and preparing an election night television program.
Students at several other universities and colleges are conducting preparations to serve as volunteer interviewers. In addition to students from BYU, participants in the exit poll hail from Southern Utah University, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, USU-Price (formerly CEU) and Westminster College.
In addition to asking Utah voters about their vote choices for President, Governor and U.S. Congress, this year’s questionnaires contain items focused on the national economy, the budget deficit, healthcare reform and U.S. foreign policy. Other exit poll questions address voter-specific characteristics that can offer insight into voting behavior.
“The Utah Colleges Exit Poll is one of the most unique learning experiences a student can have," said Kelly D. Patterson, a professor in the Department of Political Science at BYU. "During this consequential election year, it is great to be able to help students gain a first-hand look at the political process.”
On Election Day, students will begin work as early as 6 a.m., continuing until well after the polls close. Students conducting the on-site polling at one of the 130 polling locations selected statewide will brave November weather to approach randomly-selected voters after they finish voting to ask them to participate in the confidential survey.
Other students will rove designated geographic areas in “crisis teams” — visiting the interviewers, providing encouragement and handling contingencies. The remaining students will be headquartered at BYU to receive and process the incoming data and direct the efforts of the interviewers and crisis teams.
Established in 1982 under the direction of BYU professors Howard Christensen and David Magleby, the exit poll provides practical experience for students to supplement their classroom instruction, timely and accurate predictions of election day results, and insights into voting behavior in Utah.
For more information, contact the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at (801) 422-3716, csed.byu.edu.