Poll: African-Americans Concerned with Voting
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We're joined now by Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. He has been keeping tabs on voters and their concerns. Andy, thanks for coming in.
Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Director, Pew Research Center): Happy to be here.
BLOCK: And one thing you have measured is voter confidence in this question: how their votes are tallied, will their votes be counted. What did you find?
Mr. KOHUT: We found kind of a mixed picture. Yes, 58 percent say they're very confident that their votes will be counted accurately, but we have 29 percent only saying somewhat confident and as many as 12 percent saying not too or not at all confident. And this is a reflection of what we've seen in 2000 and 2004, which has eroded public trust in the way we do our elections, and we have many people, especially African Americans and Democrats, who are wary of the way the votes are counted.
BLOCK: And that group in particular would have very little confidence.
Mr. KOHUT: Yeah. Among African Americans, fully 29 percent said that they have no confidence that their vote will be counted accurately. That's up 15 percentage points from just two years ago.
BLOCK: Let's talk about another poll that you did last week through Saturday, and it shows a real split in how Democratic and Republican voters see the condition that the country is in right now.
Mr. KOHUT: Yeah. Huge gaps not only in opinions between those casting ballots for Republicans versus Democrats, but also in perceptions of reality. Among those voting for Republican candidates, 70 percent say this economy is in excellent or good shape. Among those voting for Democrats, it's only 25 percent. And on the number one issue of this election, Iraq - 61 percent of Republicans say the war's going pretty well. Only 15 percent of those people who are voting Democratic say the war is going very well.
BLOCK: Let's talk a bit about how exit polling is being done this year. These are the polls taken of voters as they're leaving polling places, and those results are tabulated to give some sense of how elections are going. In the past, there have been some real problems. The exit polls have not been accurate, and this year they're doing it differently. What's changed?
Mr. KOHUT: They're doing two things differently, the people who run these exit polls tell me. First, they're tightening up the way they sample people as they come out of the polling booths. The interviewers have been given more training, they're going to have less discretion in who they call over to do an interview, and presumable that will reduce the Democrat bias that was apparent in the surveys two years ago.
The second thing that they're doing is that they have literally locked up representatives of the news organizations paying for the exit polls until 5:00 so that there's no leak of this information early. The preliminary results can often be misleading, and the exit pollsters and the networks don't want preliminary information leaked out that could send the country off in the wrong direction, as was the case in 2004.
BLOCK: So these network reps are in this quarantine room. They've got no pagers, no cell phones, no Blackberries, no computer access.
Mr. KOHUT: They have to raise their hands to ask to go to the bathroom, just like school, I'm told. So all of this to make the country have a better, more reliable read on how the election's coming out and, you know, not send the stock market in the wrong direction, or in any direction, actually, as a consequence of a half a sample from the exit polls.
BLOCK: Andy, thanks so much.
Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.
BLOCK: That's Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.