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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 04:54 GMT
US networks cautious with results
Computer technician, Alabama
Computer glitches have affected exit polls

Still stinging from the presidential election of 2000 when news networks called - quite wrongly - the election in Florida for Democrat Al Gore, this time they are taking no chances.


Why are we doing this? In one word: Florida

Cindy Crowley, CNN

ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the Associated Press are in the midst of revamping their exit poll collating Voter News Service (VNS) following the fiasco two years ago.

After that night of chaos, the heads of the networks and the Associated Press were called to Capitol Hill to account for why the Florida result had been twice incorrectly called.

Computers blamed

Republican Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana said his staff found no intentional bias, but did find a very flawed system of exit polls, in which voters are asked what influenced their vote.

VNS workers
The VNS conceded that its new data analysis system is not ready

"The VNS models produce some very bad information. As one of the networks told me, 'garbage in, garbage out,'" Mr Tauzin said.

Work to upgrade the VNS is currently under way, but it would appear that there are still have some bugs.

As the polls closed, VNS said it would not publish its exit poll results.

The exit poll data had been collected, officials said, but glitches meant that it was not being properly analysed by the organisation's new computer system.

The rush to slow down

Members of Congress have also told the news networks to slow down.

"The American people don't need to know that President Bush sneezed 30 seconds after he did it," said Democrat Representative Eliot Engel of New York.

There was a new air of caution as results were announced on the US networks.

Gone were hyped-up presenters rushing to announce results mere seconds after the polls closed. Instead, news anchors took great pains to let viewers know how much care they were taking.

Early in the evening CNN's Judy Woodruff said that while the VNS was ready to call a race, CNN was not.

Al Gore (Right)
Al Gore was wrongly awarded the 2000 presidential election by some networks

Using its own system to spot check unofficial VNS results, CNN made the reason for its trepidation clear to viewers: "Why are we doing this? In one word: Florida," the channel's Candy Crowley explained.

CNN, along with many other news networks had set up their own polling systems after VNS warned that it might not be ready for election day.

Fox News were treading equally carefully. "The Associated Press called [the race] a while ago, but we're trying to be a bit more cautious," presenter Brit Hume said.

Such caution was necessary. As results trickled in, candidates in several key races were still running neck and neck.


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15 Oct 02 | Americas
06 Nov 02 | Americas
06 Nov 02 | Americas
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