Scooping the Voters? The Consequences of the Networks' Early Call of the 1980 Presidential Race

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The election projection of the 1980 presidential contest by NBC raised much speculation concerning its possible impact on voting in states where the polls were still open. Research on the subject has started from different assumptions, used different data and methods, and come to different conclusions concerning the real-world effects of such early calls. Using district-level voting and demographic data and focusing on deviations from normal voting patterns, this study finds the early call to have had a small but measurable impact on presidential and congressional turnout, and a somewhat larger impact on depressing the vote for Democratic candidates at both levels. In addition, higher income, white collar, and better educated populations appear to have been affected to a greater extent. While the overall impact was too small to have affected the outcome of the presidential race, at the congressional level as many as fourteen races were won by margins smaller than the estimated impact of the early call in those districts.

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The Journal of Politics
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NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Michael X. Delli Carpini was affiliated with Rutgers University. Currently January 2008, he is a faculty member of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
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