6:08 p.m. Eastern time - The Atlantic's Marc Abminder is first out of the box with hints from the New Hampshire exit poll:
EXIT POLLS: GOP: 3 in 10 independents are GOP voters...many late deciders... McCain more electable than Romney...33% say economy is biggest issue followed by Iraq (22%) .... Democrats: 46% made up minds without last week.. 4 in 10 are independents.... HRC's favorability: 73%; Obama's: 84%; ... 36% say economy is top issue....
MSNBC is also reporting that nearly half of the Democrats voting in New Hampshire are independents (43%) and that 38% of the Republicans are independent. Those numbers within range but on the high side of what pre-election polls were reporting this week for both parties, although the Democratic-Republican split is more favorable to the Democrats than the CNN/WMUR/UNH and Fox News polls reported. See the post I updated just a few minutes ago for more details.
I am headed home...but the comments section is open, please post your questions. Apologies if you get the dreaded "too many comments" error -- you did nothing wrong. We will squash that bug soon.
ABC News' Gary Langer Reports: Based on preliminary exit poll results from the New Hampshire primaries, Independents are turning out in substantial but customary numbers.
Preliminary exit poll results indicate that just over four in 10 voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary are independents, compared with 48 percent in 2004 and a record 50 percent in 1992.
To be clear, the numbers from 2004 and 1992 that Langer cites are of party identification. The numbers cited by MSNBC above may be as well. The numbers I reported earlier from pre-election surveys are mostly party registration. And there is a difference, but I have no idea what that difference might imply.
7:50 - Exit poll tabulations will be posted on MSNBC at these links (Democrats, Republicans) when the polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern time. CNN will presumably post tabulations as well. See my post from earlier this morning for more information on what to make of these numbers when they appear.
8:11 - Mark Lindeman is posting extrapolations of the current candidate estimates used the weight the tabulations posted on CNN and MSNBC in the comments section below. Look there for further updates.
8:28 - The tabulations on the Democratic side indicate that Obama's advantage was narrower among those who decided in the last few days than among those who decided over the last month (i.e. no big break to Obama in the closing days): Obama's margin over Clinton (using the current estimates, which will likely change over the next few hours) among those who decided their vote today (40% to 37%), the last three days (41% to 35%), last week (47% to 25%), last month (48% to 32%). Among those who decided "before that," Clinton leads 47% to 32%. And more than a third of voters (37%) say they made up their minds today or in the last three days.
10:33 - NBC projects Clinton the winner, prompting the following exchange between the MSBNC anchors:
Chris Matthews: [Clinton] has beaten the odds, she has beaten the pollsters, the pundits. Everyone one of us included who has been trying to follow this campaign and understand it. I think something happened. It must have happened fairly recently, or else the pollsters should find another means of employment.
Keith Olbermann: Well the entire industry was apparently mistaken, it had nothing to do...
Matthews: But every poll. At least with the other side [the Republicans] there was some disagreement, in the Democratic primary, these polls were relentlessly pro-Obama.
12:35 - As I started to write up these final paragraphs, Chris Matthew popped up to say the following on MSNBC: "I'd like to see an inquest of all these polls and the methodology because we always have learned, eventually, what went wrong with polling."
Well, what follows is considerably less than an inquest, but I have been comparing the exit poll tabulations with the last set of cross-tabulations from CNN/WMUR/UNH. Looking at just one poll may turn out to be misleading, so hopefully we can do similar comparisons on a larger group of polls, but based on this initial look, here is what I see:
If there was a problem with this one poll it was not about the composition of the electorate. Were there too few women? Too many independents? Too many young voters? On these three variables, if it erred, the UNH poll erred slightly in Clinton's favor. It had slightly more women, more older voters and more registered independents in the Democratic electorate than the exit poll. The UNH poll did sample slightly more voters with college degrees (61%) than the exit poll (53%), but that difference does not explain Obama's lead. Weight back 61% college educated to 53%, and Obama's lead on the poll shrinks only a little (from 9 to 6 points).
On the other hand, the discrepancy between the last UNH poll and the result seems concentrated in a few key subgroups. I will post the exact numbers tomorrow once the we get a final exit poll tabulations, but virtually all of the difference seems to come from women and college educated voters. For the moment, when comparing the UNH poll to the exit poll, I see a net 17 point gain for Clinton among women compared to a 5 point gain among men, and a 13 point net gain among college educated voters compared to a one point net loss among those with no college degree.
My new colleague* Ron Brownstein has chronicled the critical importance of college educated women as swing voters in the Democratic nomination race. More than any other group, they moved to Clinton in the fall after her strong performances in early debates. Yes she appeared to be doing far less well among these voters in Iowa. If the polls missed a last minute shift to Clinton in New Hampshire, considering the heavily gender focused coverage of the last 48 hours of the campaign, the most logical place to look is among college educated women.
Combine that with the exit poll results showing 37% of the Democrats "finally deciding" for whom they would vote in the last three days of the campaign, and we have a pretty good first clue of what happened with the polls in New Hampshire this week.
*There is a hint there for regular readers -- more on that tomorrow (er..later today).
12:50 - ABC polling director Gary Langer has some very worthy first impressions:
There will be a serious, critical look at the final pre-election polls in the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire; that is essential. It is simply unprecedented for so many polls to have been so wrong. We need to know why.
But we need to know it through careful, empirically based analysis. There will be a lot of claims about what happened - about respondents who reputedly lied, about alleged difficulties polling in biracial contests. That may be so. It also may be a smokescreen - a convenient foil for pollsters who'd rather fault their respondents than own up to other possibilities - such as their own failings in sampling and likely voter modeling. [....]
The data may tell us; it may not. What's beyond question is that it is incumbent on us - and particularly on the producers of the New Hampshire pre-election polls - to look at the data, and to look closely, and to do it without prejudging.
Definitely worth reading in full.