I don't know why Kerry lost (although I like the theory that it was an uphill struggle to begin with) or what the Democrats can do to win next time, but I do have a couple thoughts about the exit polls.
The early exit polls (finished at 6pm, I think) had Kerry up 51-48. The final results seem to be the opposite, with Bush winning 51-48. The exit poll sample was about 10,000 at that point, I recall, which means a shift of 2 points in Bush/Kerry lead is outside the margin of error. The actual shift of 6 points is way outside the margin of error.
, of all people, has the best explanation for the exit poll's failure I've seen:
Why were the exit polls so off? My nominee is Reason 3 from Mystery Pollster's list--"Voting patterns may be different early in the day." Specifically, angrier voters vote earlier. This year, Kerry voters were angrier, so angry that they lined up at the polls as soon as they could in the morning and got disproportionately counted by the NEP survey-takers. Unfortunately, they could only vote once, and their vote was cancelled by the less angry Republicans who sauntered in later in the day.
This rings true to me. I was anxious to cast my vote against Bush, so I voted early in the day, which I rarely have done in the past.
One other thing the exit polls show is that there's been a shift in Party ID of about 3-4 points. The final exit poll
, weighted to reflect actual turnout, found 37% Dem., 37% Rep., 26% Ind. I've been arguing all along that this was happening, since it showed up in so many polls, while others preferred to blame the polls for drawing bad samples. Too bad my final prediction -- a big victory for Kerry -- wasn't vindicated too.