NEW ALBANY, Indiana. The 9th Congressional District of this bellwether state is considered a “swing” election this year, and many political experts thought they would be able to detect the first signs of a Republican or a Democratic victory with early exit polls in small towns like this.
“I strongly favor that cute pink hat you’ve got on–where’d you get it?”
“Generally, you can get a quick if incorrect sense of the mood of the electorate from exit polls,” says Todd Deodat, Jr. of the DC-based polling firm Electoral Strategies. “Then you go on TV and people think you know what you’re talking about, so they hire you to do a poll for them.”
But the bright line that pollsters and pundits seek by interviewing voters as they leave voting booths is producing ambiguous results this year, confounding the predictions of those who said this election would produce a seismic shift in American government or be really historic or something.
“Surprisingly, the most common response when we asked voters ‘Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?’ was ‘Get out of my way,’ regardless of race, income or party affiliation,” says Albert Domingue, who was hired by the national Democratic Party to sample opinions in order to better tailor TV advertising to voters’ concerns in the Pacific Time zone. “Second was ‘Don’t touch me’ followed closely by ‘Are you giving out free samples?’”
“Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?”
The generic question “Do you believe the country is headed in the right direction?” drew a negative response from majorities in both parties. “I’m headed to my car,” said Earl Licholz, a retired sheet metal worker who was accompanied by his wife of 42 years, Verleen. “We’re going to Target to get bird feed,” she said, when asked whether she agreed or disagreed with the statement “My nipples are bursting with pleasure.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as she rolled up her window. “I vote for the man, not the party.”