#TheFilipinoDecides2016: That optional yet necessary thing called “exit poll”

WARNING: Before reading this article, watch the following video playlist.

What these YouTube videos in this playlist do have in common?

On this final general lecture of #TheFilipinoDecides2016 series — but not the overall talk — we will look on an element that can’t usually be found during our Election Day broadcasts: exit polling.

An exit poll is a poll conducted to voters after they actually vote in their precincts. In most countries where such polling is legal, exit polls are useful for all forms of mass media (including social media) on how the election turned out as the actual counting will take hours or days. In simple analogy, it is like a weather forecast but the condition will last for 6 years from the following June 30 than within the next 24 hours to 3 days.

Legal basis of exit polling in the Philippines

Section 5.5 of the Fair Elections Act (Republic Act 9006) allows any media outlet or a market research firm to release the exit poll as long as:

  • Pollsters shall not conduct their surveys within fifty (50) meters from the polling place, whether said survey is taken in a home, dwelling place and other places;
  • Pollsters shall wear distinctive clothing;
  • Pollsters shall inform the voters that they may refuse to answer; and
  • The result of the exit polls may be announced after the closing of the polls on Election Day, and must dearly identify the total number of respondents, and the places where they were taken. Said announcement shall state that the same is unofficial and does not represent a trend.

Putting the legal theory in the situation

Taking into real-life experience come E-Day (May 9), after you cast your vote and had your right index finger dripped in the cuticle with purple indelible ink — don’t worry, it won’t be itchy — someone will usually ask you some discrete information and your choice. That pollster will transmit the result to his or her conducted and supervised media outlet and/or market firm as they are pressuring to beat the deadline (i.e. the closing of polls).

But in reality...

However, pollsters conducting such exit polls are extremely rare and scattered. After you vote in your official precinct and watched the special election news as you count down to the closing of the polls. Once the polls closed, you will see on your small screen the printing of the long paper trails of the new PCOS machines across the archipelago. By 15 to 30 minutes after the closing of the polls, the initial tally from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is released — labeling it as “partial and unofficial” — before COMELEC’s “official” turn, which will happen days or weeks after PPRCV’s.

In absence of exit polls, the PPCRV will usually release the initial tally from the command center. This picture was taken during Election Night 2013.

In absence of exit polls, the PPCRV will usually release the initial tally from the command center. This picture was taken during Election Night 2013.

As this is a presidential election, the outgoing (16th) Congress will sit in a joint session in Batasang Pambansa and will canvass (count) the official votes from every Certificate of Canvass (CoCs) — both inland and abroad — usually lasting several days after COMELEC’s count. They will have the final say of the outcome.

5 reasons why exit polls are not much applied here

  1. Lack of punctuality. Despite of a law that implements the standardizing the time in the whole archipelago (R.A. 10535); it didn’t penalize erring citizens but government agencies and broadcasters. However, in real talk, most broadcasters still do not start and end their programs on time, except for unexpected circumstances, and they were never penalized to do so. In the end, it is difficult to implement to impose citizens on being on time and still stuck with “Filipino time.” Within 24-48 hours after the polls are closed, exit polls were released on few media outlets.
  2. The basis on when to release. The aforementioned provisions of the Fair Elections Act didn’t explicitly mention the geographical basis on when the exit polls will be released on whether they will release on at home (UTC+8) or near the east of the International Date Line or farther than that where overseas voting is possible.
  3. It’s optional not mandatory. The provision on exit polls of the aforementioned law does not mandate all media networks to publish their own or a consolidated exit poll. So far, ABS-CBN (with the help of SWS) and Manila Broadcasting Company (particularly DZRH) are the two media companies that employ exit polling. Speaking of consolidation…
  4. Divisiveness of interpretation. Given the hostile and bitter environment of the broadcast industry, as the Turf mentioned last February before the first presidential debate, they will get the same form but they will interpret in different numbers and skewed ranks (giving the question: “How biased is this exit poll?”). That being said, consolidation or pooling of exit poll data is not certainly practicable, compare to those in the playlist provided.
  5. Inaccuracy of the exit poll. Exit polls — like opinion polls (surveys) — are prone to margin of error. One of its real world example happened last May 7, 2015 in the United Kingdom. When their polls in their general election were closed at 10:00 p.m., the Ipsos MORI (a survey firm) released over their Big 3 TV companies (BBC, ITV and SKY) that a hung parliament would still prevail with the Conservative Party, under Prime Minister David Cameron, still as the largest party with a 10-seat gain from 306 to 316. However, in the wee hours, the exit poll has been adjusted reaching the party’s majority control. In the end, the Tories won a razor-thin majority with 330 over opposition’s 320. In order to reduce the risk, the sampling size and sampling method must be carefully set and employed.

That being said, an exit poll is a helpful guide on how our votes went and whether that these votes are deserved. In the end, they — the pollsters — are not making the vote; it’s yours. Make it count.

Advisory:  I mentioned earlier that the Election Series is not over even though the general lecture is. Stay tuned for the extraordinary #TheFilipinoDecides2016 post this Monday, April 25.

Like Timow’s Turf on Facebook and discuss it here on Reddit.

[Photo courtesy of CBCP News]


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