The Associated Press unveiled a new project Tuesday to supplant traditional exit polling — beginning with the 2018 midterm elections.
AP VoteCast will combine traditional, probability-based polling with an online, opt-in survey of voters in targeted states. It will measure the preferences and opinions of those who have or will cast ballots in this year’s midterms, and also non-voters about why they chose not to turn out.
The project is being launched in conjunction with Fox News — with both news organizations abandoning the embattled model of in-person exit polling that has dominated election nights for decades.
“It’s sort of been a constant search to get the right approach and the right methodology to get the best results on Election Day,” said David Scott, AP’s deputy managing editor.
In a press release on Tuesday, the AP said it had already signed The Washington Post as a subscriber for “several states” in this year’s elections. The AP will also use the VoteCast project to inform its industry-standard race calls for statewide contests.
The Tuesday announcement represents the culmination of nearly two years of research on how to improve upon the exit poll at a time when large numbers of voters in many states don’t vote on Election Day at their polling place. Some states — like Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have mostly voting by mail, while other states offer robust early-voting options, sometimes more than a month before Election Day.
Public opinion researchers from Fox News and NORC at the University of Chicago, which is working with both outlets on the project, will present the findings of their testing this weekend at the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s annual conference in Denver.
The AP says its new, Election-Day survey will be “more accurate” than the traditional exit poll — which is still used by other, major news organizations. Those media outlets use exit polls both to make individual race projections and as a trove of data on those who turned out — their demographics and attitudes.
Joe Lenski, the co-founder and executive vice-president at Edison Research, which conducts exit polls for the National Election Pool, told POLITICO last year that ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News have committed to receiving both exit polling and election results from Edison through the 2020 elections.
Scott, in a phone interview Tuesday morning, said he is confident with the AP’s decision, with Fox, to strike out on its own.
“Trying to continue to work within [the existing] approach — we didn’t see that as the best way to go anymore,” he said. “We really felt this was the moment when we needed to start from scratch.”