I'm talking about How does the discrepancy between exit polls and results in recent US elections compare to pre-electronic machine margins? (And you should really read the original form.)

A widespread claim I'm seeing people make, amid studies that demonstrate critical flaws in voting systems used in the US during the past decade, is that some swing states have had alarming discrepancies between the exit polls and the results. In other words perhaps election outcomes have been changed by electronic vote manipulation.

I think the most obvious question to ask is "Before we used electronic voting machines, were the discrepancies between exit polls and results in swing states different?"

I don't even know where to begin looking for those stats, however, from over a decade ago before electronic voting was widespread

Currently at +8/-3 votes. Oddly no link was provided for the "widespread claim [...] amid studies that demonstrate critical flaws during the past decade".

As it turn out, the idea that exit polls can be used to catch fraud in the actual election is not taken seriously by most researchers, at least not when it applies to the US elections. Instead the usual assumption is that the exit polls are the ones suffering from a sampling bias, e.g. younger and/or more educated voters being more likely to complete exit polls.

I'm aware of only one non-peer-reviewed paper that tried to prove fraud by comparing exit polls with results (well in the US), and it has been discussed on snopes.

So how can one answer such a question (which asks for data that nobody serious is likely to compare) without being off-topic?

  • 6
    Scientific method requires theorizing as a necessary precursor to both proof and disproof. Unless political conspiracies have never existed and cannot exist, (counter example: Watergate), it's unclear why theorizing itself should be a problem. Rather we should aim to distinguish between those methods of theorizing that are most useful and those that are not so useful.
    – agc
    Aug 6, 2018 at 20:49
  • @agc: I can't disagree with that, except that mods see an answer like "your method of theorizing is not useful" as an off-topic answer. Which is the technicality that opens the door for questions that will practically never be answered. The only allowed "solution" under this scheme are rounds and rounds of close/reopen votes. Which is probably not a big deal because a lot of SE sites have perennially open, very hard to answer questions. Aug 6, 2018 at 20:54
  • Re "your method of...": s/your/that particular/ -- Politics.meta.SE seems like a good place to distinguish and evaluate any such given particular methods, and if there is sufficient consensus, to set policy. At which point we might progress to something like "This method of theorizing is the notorious foobar method, (suppose there's a URL about it here), which is disallowed".
    – agc
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:04

3 Answers 3


The author of the question edited it to remove the unsourced claim that there are discrepancies between election results and exit polls.

It is now asking:

Before we used electronic voting machines, were the discrepancies between exit polls and results in swing states different?

This is a factual question which can be answered objectively by looking up the election results and comparing them with the exit poll data before and after a district switched to electronic voting machines.

A good answer to this question would go a step further and not just provide the numbers but also help with interpreting them. For example by also showing whether districts which do not made the switch experienced a similar decline in accuracy of polls in these elections or not. A good answer could also reference published research which interprets these discrepancies and provides explanations for it.

  • yes, but doing that is akin to writing a paper like that that discussed on snopes. The problems (still) are: scope (who's gonna write a research paper just for him) and premises (still flawed, even if not explicit anymore). Aug 1, 2018 at 10:52
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    @Fizz - It's always possible that someone has already done the research. It's the kindof thing I'd expect to find an analysis of on FiveThirtyEight, for example. It'd just be a matter of finding and referencing it.
    – Bobson
    Aug 6, 2018 at 14:46
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    @Bobson: they might conduct an analysis for electronic voting and fraud. It's quite doubtful they'll use exit polling as the yardstick though; see also skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/41949/… (which received 0 interest here, so I moved it to Skeptics.) Aug 6, 2018 at 15:22

The question, in its original form and even as it is now, simply calls into question the security of US voting technology (which is a proven issue, not some off the cuff opinion) and searches for any evidence of these vulnerabilities being taken advantage of.

There's evidence of states using machines where votes could be changed by bad actors from over 1000 feet away with publicly available hacking software and a $50 antenna:

Schürmann determined immediately that the WinVote had a specific IP address and was able to use a vulnerability from 2003 (CVE-2003-035212) and preinstalled attack payloads in Metasploit (a vulnerability analysis and penetration testing tool) to gain access to the filesystem and escalate privileges to an admin user – meaning he could make the machine think he was an administrator of the system, not simply a mere voter or poll-worker. Once he had this access, Schürmann was able to do anything on the system, from running code, to changing votes in the database, to turning the machine off remotely. This vulnerability had clearly been in the system since 2003, allowing anyone within 150-300 feet of a polling place complete control of any WinVote machine while it was being used. For $50, a hand-held high gain antenna could be purchased that would extend that range to over 1,000 feet and through walls.

And the FBI, NSA, and CIA have all agreed that Russia has been actively working to interfere in US elections. So I don't see how I'm reaching or pushing any kind of agenda here to ask the question I'm asking, which is essentially a less broad form of:

"Has there been any data to support the possibility of vote manipulation since electronic voting has become a thing?"

And I narrowed it down to "swing states" (any states that have acted as swing states during that period) to make it even less broad.

So I think I asked a very fair and reasonable question in a very fair and reasonable way and I'm having trouble seeing why my question would be seen as pushing some kind of political agenda, which is what close voters seem to have insinuated:

The primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician. It does not appear to be a good-faith effort to learn more about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center." – user4012, tim, K Dog, hszmv, Texas Red

And I'm concerned that perhaps the closing of my question was an effort to

"promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician"

  • 2
    FYI, I've cast the 5th reopen vote, so your question can now (again) be answered, and I wasn't among the people who closed it; I was more inclined to give you an "not likely to get seriously researched" answer for the reasons I've mentioned: beside the theoretical vulnerabilities, evidence of them having been exploited in US elections is lacking. Aug 5, 2018 at 21:23

I have heard this exact claim from multiple sources. People do believe it.

I wouldn't expect researchers to support it, because it is silly. Anyone who understands how statistics work knows that polling isn't sufficiently accurate to detect swings of, say, 4%. And people who know how polls work realize that even larger differences are possible. Polls can exhibit not only sampling error but skew. And of course, people can change their minds between the time of the poll and casting their vote (or not casting their vote).

For example, California had a 6.5% polling miss. Is that evidence that California's vote was corrupted? People widely derided Donald Trump when he claimed that election fraud was why California gave him a popular vote loss. There's a similar argument in the other direction for Wisconsin. California had a 9% polling miss in Barack Obama's favor in 2012.

The question isn't supporting it but trying to debunk it. I don't know that it's a great question, but it's kind of interesting. I don't really have a problem with it being upvoted. Yes, it's a conspiracy theory. But it's a conspiracy theory that many people believe. And the actual data being requested is objective and entirely on-topic.

Asking how to find data to do research seems like something that should be on-topic here. I'm fine with removing the context if we want to downplay conspiracy theories. But the goal should be to make good questions through editing if we can, not to throw them off the site for disagreeing with us.

Your Snopes link says

That factor doesn’t necessarily cast doubt on the researchers’ findings, but it highlights that not much independent and neutral verification of their conclusions has occurred yet.

I.e. they are saying that objective evidence one way or the other is limited.

Here's a chance to explain how to find objective raw data. We're not Skeptics.SE. We don't need to limit ourselves to already published papers. Asking how to find data that could be used to write a paper is on-topic in my opinion. Even if the actual intent is to use it in internet arguments.


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