Early voting has already begun in Utah and so has exit polling. But this election year might shake things up for one exit poll in the Beehive State.
The Utah Colleges Exit Poll is run mostly by undergraduate volunteers from all the major universities in the state. The students do everything from sampling design to interviewing voters as they exit voting booths.
The student-driven exit poll has a pretty good track record too, says David Magleby, a political science professor at Brigham Young University who helps direct the project.
“Virtually always, we’ve been correct,” he says, “and virtually always within what’s called the margin of error.”
But Magleby says there are two things different about this election year. The first is mail-in balloting, which began in Utah in 2014. Since it’s still relatively new, Magleby says even county clerks still aren’t exactly sure how many people will use them to vote.
“We’ll have to be tracking that ourselves in terms of turnout,” says Magleby. “So it means we really have two exit polls going.”
He says the other difference is an obvious one.
“Donald Trump,” he says, “and the dynamics of that race, which means that Utah is a battleground, it’s a toss-up state in the presidential race.”
Students have surveyed nearly 3,500 voters so far, but Magleby says they won’t release any data until shortly after Utah polls close at 8 p.m. on election night.