Exit Polls

If you google “early exit polls” you’ll find that in both news stories and blogs, everyone is talking about the effort to embargo exit poll results. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that exit polls depress voter turnout for projected winners AND for projected losers. Supporters of the former assume they don’t need to vote while supporters of the latter are dejected and so don’t vote. So, a number of questions come to mind: 1) Which effect is larger? (I’d be surprised if there weren’t some empirical data on this question and I’d guess that the effect on the supporters of the projected losers is greater.) 2) What’s the psychological mechanism? A rational voter knows going in that her vote has almost no chance of influencing the outcome, so why should an exit poll have an impact? Is it because many voters are irrational? Or is it related in some way to the fact that people don’t like to watch recorded sports events when they know the outcome?