US media call election results from 'quarantine room'

After the presidential election debacle of 2000, when election results in the US state of Florida incorrectly called for then vice president Al Gore based on exit polling information from voting locations, American media outlets took pains to avoid any such errors again.

On Tuesday morning, representatives from five major US TV networks and the Associated Press entered into a “quarantine room”, a secret location with no cell phone or Internet access. In that room, data provided by a single exit polling company was simultaneously released to everyone.

By 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT), staffers from American news agencies ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the Associated Press were permitted to start sending data to their respective news organisations, while additional exit poll information kept coming in.

However, the information that they could provide were only general trends garnered from exit polls.

According to those results released Tuesday evening, about half of all voters still blamed former president George W. Bush more than President Barack Obama for the country’s economic problems.

The exit poll results released by the AP found that 60 percent of voters named the economy as their top issue, followed by health care at 17 percent, the budget deficit at 15 percent, and foreign policy at four percent, Politico reported.

Only 24 percent of voters surveyed said their families finances are better off than they were four years ago, while 39 percent said the economy is improving.

Voters were split on the direction of the country. Forty-six percent said it’s headed in the right direction, while 52 percent said it’s on the wrong track.

Meanwhile, news organizations were not permitted to publish or broadcast any information that suggested which way a state was leaning until its polls closed and actual vote numbers started coming in.

The major TV networks have also agreed not to have their reporters tweet exit poll results, post them on Facebook or re-tweet figures that are reported by others.
“We don’t get any pressure from our bosses to be first here,” Pace said. “We get pressure to be right.”

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