Approximately 1,000 college students from seven 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.
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 will brave November weather to approach randomly selected voters after they finish voting to ask them to participate in the confidential survey. Student interviewers will work a seven-hour morning or afternoon shift at one of the many polling locations scattered throughout the state.
In addition to asking Utah voters about their vote choices for governor, this year’s questionnaires will include items focused on immigration, media usage, Tea Party involvement, state tobacco taxes and other current issues.
Other students will rove designated geographic areas in “crisis teams” — visiting the interviewers to ensure all is well, provide encouragement and handle 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.
In addition to students from BYU, other participants in the exit poll hail from Utah Valley University, Westminster College, Weber State University, Utah State University, Southern Utah University and Dixie State College. Students interested in participating in this year’s poll are encouraged to sign up at the exit poll’s website, exitpoll.byu.edu.
The results of the poll, which has proven very accurate over its 26-year history, will be available shortly after the closing of the polls on Election Day. KBYU will broadcast the results live as a part of its election programming. Press releases and survey questionnaires will be made available at exitpoll.byu.edu and to participating news outlets, and custom analysis will be available upon request.
Since early September about three dozen students in the Political Science and Statistics Departments at BYU have been organizing this year’s exit poll. The work includes drawing a random sample, designing the surveys, training students as Election Day interviewers and programming computer systems data input.
“The Utah Colleges Exit Poll provides students with a great opportunity to get outside the classroom and experience research firsthand,” said Quin Monson, co-director of the exit poll and an assistant professor of political science at BYU.
“This is a massive project that would be impossible without help from our friends in political science and statistics all across the state,” said a grateful Kelly Patterson, professor of political science at BYU and co-director of the exit poll.
The Utah Colleges Exit Poll began in 1982 under the direction of BYU professors Howard Christensen and David Magleby. Now an institution of Utah politics, 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.
The poll is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU, a nonpartisan academic research center seeking to increase knowledge about the practice of American democracy. Founded in 1998, CSED has enjoyed significant success securing grants from foundations and other sources. CSED-sponsored research has been published in leading academic journals and press outlets in the areas of campaign finances, voting technology and election reform, presidential and congressional elections, religion and politics and democratic deliberation.
Writer: Rebecca Arrington