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Ancillary Casualties, Part I: Exit Polling * EPeak World News

18th March, 00:00

Today, Edison Research, which has long conducted the exit polling used by networks and major news outlets to predict electoral outcomes, and by journalists like me to analyze who voted for whom and why, has this statement on its website:

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the National Election Pool will not be conducting in-person Exit Polls for the primaries on Tuesday March 17th. We will still look to report counted vote totals as they are made available by elections officials and explore other options for reporting the views of voters in the states holding primaries. The National Election Pool remains committed to delivering the most comprehensive coverage of elections in the U.S.

Plainly, the absence of exit polls ranks way, way down the list of unanticipated adversities inflicted on us by COVID-19. Moreover, the turnout in today's three primaries (in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona) may be so reduced that it wouldn't really reflect an accurate measure of voter preferences. Of course, one way to determine that would be an exit poll. If the turnout of voters over 65 collapses, which could diminish Joe Biden's support, we have no way save the anecdotal to know that. Nor can we know if Biden is doing any better in the constituencies where he's been weakest: Latinos (who are a sizable share of the Arizona Democratic electorate) and the young.

The completely understandable (and, if I may, correct) suspension of the practice of asking voters as they exit polling places how they voted and who (demographically, economically, and ideologically) they are is just one example of the casualties that don't spring to mind when we think of the havoc that the coronavirus is inflicting on our economy. Industries that rely on their consumers' obsessive-compulsive behavior, however, are apparently trying to find a way to indulge those consumers' addictions. Today, among the gazillion unsolicited emails that pop up at random in my in-box, I got one from a leading sports betting company, informing me that, "With most sporting events cancelled/postponed for an indefinite period of time because of the coronavirus, the site is now offering gamblers the ability to bet on the weather, for real." As an example, they offer bettors the chance to wager whether the maximum temperature in Philadelphia tomorrow will be over or under 59 degrees.

I'm not a betting man, but I am somewhat addicted, I guess, to exit polls. Oh well.