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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 11:23 AM ET, 11/10/2010

New exit poll numbers! (Oy.)

If you're like any of the pundits trolling Washington or one of your screens, you now have a well-rehearsed tale about how the Republicans won back control of the House last week. Perhaps you pepper your story with exit poll scripture, just as they do.

Republican House candidates won independents by 18 points, you declare. Most voters - 54 percent - said they disapprove of the way President Obama is doing his job. Fully 41 percent of all voters said they are conservative, the most ever to say so on an exit poll. You say that just 11 percent of voters were aged 18 to 29, the lowest ever.

What an authority!

Well, now a week later, you can forget those numbers. You have new ones to memorize.

The exit pollsters updated their numbers Tuesday, adjusting for the (near) final vote tallies across the country. This is standard procedure, but threatens a Hal-like numbers overload as they're coming, for the first time, a full week after an election.

In 2008, updates in several states happened 10 days after Election Day. The fine-tuning is done to make the exit polls more accurate as the local election offices finalize their vote counts.

Don't worry: you don't have to change your narrative about election 2010. If your favorite, go-to numbers shifted at all, they only moved by a point or two from what were on your flashcards last week. But you do have some work to do.

For example: Republican House candidate won independent voter by 19 percentage points. Some 55 percent of voters said they disapprove of Obama's job performance, and 42 percent of the electorate identified as conservative.

Also little changed, is that voters under 30 made up 12 percent of the electorate. That's the same proportion younger voters made up in 2006, not a single-point lower as previously and widely reported. This change means practically nothing statistically or substantively, and points to the broad-based over-interpretation of small margins in exit polls. But that's another story.

By  |  11:23 AM ET, 11/10/2010

Categories:  Exit polls | Tags:  2010, election, exit polls, midterms

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