October 18, 2012
“Is the exit poll intellectually dead?” That is the question that Professor D. James Greiner of Harvard Law School and Professor Kevin M. Quinn of UC Berkeley School of Law explore in their recently released paper, “Long Live the Exit Poll,” which appears in the Fall 2012 edition of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Greiner and Quinn ponder the history of the exit poll, as well as its future in an era dominated by technology and more efficient digital means of gathering information. While the exit poll was originally designed to predict the results of an election hours before the actual results came in, the authors suggest that its purpose has changed.
“The exit poll is … uniquely well suited to provide information about the voting experience. In our view, the details of election administration matter. As our short history illustrates, the method in which voting occurs has been the frequent subject of political battles since colonization. And in the past half-century or so, the election administration battle has been ugly.”
The authors suggest that in the end, it may make sense for academic institutions to replace media outlets as the administrators of the exit poll.
The Fall 2012 edition of Daedalus, “On Public Opinion,” features essays from prominent scholars examining why public opinion matter. Contributing authors include Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Linda Greenhouse, who covered the U.S. Supreme Court for three decades, and Gary Segura, director of the Program in Chicana and Chicano Studies at Stanford University.
Greiner’s research focuses on statistics and litigation, ecological inference models often used in cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and application of counterfactual frameworks of causation to civil rights issues. Before joining the faculty at HLS, he completed his Ph.D. in statistics at Harvard University, practiced at Jenner & Block, and for the Department of Justice Programs Branch. His work has been published in the Review of Economics and Statistics and the Harvard Law Review, among other journals.