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Intellect

National attention on student-run exit poll

Update: The exit poll projects Donald Trump as the winner of the presidential race in Utah. Exit poll results are available at exitpoll.byu.edu

#UTExitPoll projects Trump to win Utah. Projected breakdown: @realDonaldTrump 38% @HillaryClinton 33% @Evan_McMullin 22% #ElectionNight — KBYU Eleven (@kbyueleven) November 9, 2016


With Utah considered a “tossup” in the Presidential election, all eyes will be on the Utah Colleges Exit Poll and its KBYU broadcast Tuesday night.

The highly regarded and longstanding exit poll is an academic project that gathers voter data and makes election predictions when voting booths close at 8 p.m. It is conducted by students and faculty at Brigham Young University in partnership with volunteers from six other schools – Utah State University, Weber State University, Utah Valley University, the University of Utah, Southern Utah University and Dixie State University.

Unlike pre-election polls, the Utah Colleges Exit Poll will provide the only data on Utah voters’ attitudes and concerns as they cast their ballots. The project has been consistently accurate in predicting the results of an election, as noted in a tweet from Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox on Election night 2014.

One reason why pre-election polls show Utah competitive in 2016 is that Utah GOP voters appear not to be united. Among the questions the 2016 exit poll will help to explain:

  • How will Utah Republicans divide their votes between Donald Trump, Evan McMullin, and Gary Johnson?
  • How do Utah voters assess the strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?
  • What concerns are expressed by those who didn’t vote for either the Democratic or Republican nominee?

For other candidates on the Utah ballot, the exit poll will allow analysts to assess the degree of split ticket voting. The survey also asks about whether candidates endorsing their party nominee or declining to endorse mattered to Utah voters.
BYU political scientist David Magleby, who directs the Utah Colleges Exit Poll, says this year’s exit polls will be the most comprehensive ever.

“We are sampling Utahns from several counties in the state,” Magleby said. “And we have several ways of reaching them to give us a broader and more accurate set of results.”

With Utah moving more and more to early voting, including vote-by-mail, the exit poll has had to substantially expand.

Since early voting began in October, exit pollsters have been contacting random samples of early voters to gather data on these participants. Overall the exit poll is aiming for a sample of at least 6,000 early voters. Because it is uncertain how many Utah voters will vote early, the 2016 Utah Colleges Exit Poll will deploy over 800 students to 117 voting places statewide. The sample design used for the poll is developed by courses in the BYU Statistics department. It is anticipated that the election day in-person exit poll will have an additional 10,000 respondents.

The 2016 Utah Colleges Exit Poll places emphasis on voter opinions about the presidential race as well as Utah contests for U.S. Senate, Governor, and U.S. House of Representatives in all four congressional districts. When possible the exit poll replicates items from major national polls. The poll also asks important public policy questions like the pending nomination of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court, how to deal with immigration, and what voters see as the most important issues in the election.

Much of this data will be analyzed by the exit pollsters and made available to local and national news media on election night. The data will not only be used to predict who will win in Utah elections but will also be used to track Utah demographic voting trends.

Professor David Magleby and a student talk about the exit poll on the KBYU Election Night set

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