On the Big Night, Forecasters Strain to Make Correct Call

Behind the decisions that news organizations will make Tuesday night about when to call states for either presidential candidate lies a complex mix of polling, vote counts, statistical models and subjective judgment.

Already a consortium of five television networks and the Associated Press has been funding phone surveys to determine how many of the votes cast before Election Day are going to President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. The consortium will combine those results with exit polls conducted on Election Day, plus early counts of actual votes at randomly selected precincts, and share the data with its members. …

“The overriding rule that everybody understands—and we will say it 100 times among ourselves over and over on Tuesday—is, it’s better to be right than to be first,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief.

That attitude is a byproduct of a painful episode in election-returns coverage, in 2000, when some networks had to reverse their calls of Florida more than once before reporting that it was too close to call. [cont.]

Carl Bialik, Wall Street Journal