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AP VoteCast debuts Tuesday

, by Lauren Easton

The Associated Press will debut its new VoteCast election survey on Nov. 6, helping to tell the story of why the winners in the U.S. midterm elections won.

Developed with NORC at the University of Chicago, AP VoteCast will provide data about the makeup of the American electorate nationwide and in all states holding an election for U.S. Senate or governor in 2018.

Deputy Managing Editor David Scott, who oversees AP’s polling unit, explains how the survey works:

VoteCast is based on the surveys of more than 122,000 registered voters in every state, taken until the moment polls close. How do you find respondents?

We start by mailing a postcard to a random sample of registered voters in 25 states, inviting them to take our survey either online or by phone. We also try to reach those registered voters directly by phone. At the same time, we’re conducting a random-sample survey of registered voters nationwide using NORC’s based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Finally, we survey self-identified registered voters in all 50 states using opt-in online panels, which allows us to interview a very large number of people in just a few days. More details are available in the VoteCast methodology statement.

Voters cast their ballots early for the midterm elections at the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center in Noblesville, Indiana, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Why is this different from an exit poll?

An exit poll is exactly what it sounds like: a survey of voters interviewed in person as they "exit" a neighborhood polling place.The exit poll was a great tool for understanding elections when it was designed in the 1970s and 1980s. But it hasn't evolved to reflect the realities of modern America, which is a much more diverse society with a different social, economic and political landscape that we need to consider to accurately represent the voting population.

Plus, the way that people vote has changed, with so many more people voting early or by mail and not at the polling place. VoteCast, which is based on a decade of research and experimentation aimed at evolving the traditional, in-person exit poll, accounts for those changes and takes into account the opinions of voters who choose not to cast ballots.  

In what way will AP use VoteCast on election night?

VoteCast is one of the tools AP will use to call races on election night, along with our premier vote count and analytical tools. We will also use VoteCast data in our stories about national trends and analysis to explain why people voted the way they did, or why they decided not to vote at all.

How can people take the VoteCast survey?

Online or by telephone, but only if you receive an invitation to do so. Because VoteCast is based on random sample surveys and interviews with members of online panels, it’s not possible to volunteer to take part. In fact, that’s one of the reasons for VoteCast’s accuracy. 

Read more about AP VoteCast.