Read the second installment of what I initially thought was a gimmicky report HERE.
The story here is that a high school civics class (at the best high school on the planet!) is doing a really neat project. It's something the students will learn and be able to use in their future work lives. Accurately forecasting the outcome of an event such as an election or IPO offering is a much sought after talent in the work world. No doubt these young folks are getting leg up on the competition with this project.
No matter how scientific and well thought out their project is - it's not a bellwether for the country's 17th largest city's only newspaper to use for a hotly contested election. A short conversation with any media professional not working at the El Paso Times will tell you that your credibility is second to no other factor in the news business and you don't want to leverage that on the backs of zit-faced teenagers.
Newspaper seeking to conduct exit polling contract with very serious and very experienced polling firms. The time and effort needed for an accurate exit poll is tremendous. The calculations behind the scenes are pretty extraordinary and account for a lot of factors the average Joe never thinks of. It's not as simple as taking the first 490 who walk out of a polling place and splitting them up by age, sex, race and party affiliation. It's a lot more like taking 2,000 of those people and whittling out the "outliers" and "anomalies" to get a solid 490.
I'm not saying these kids won't be right on the money. There's a statistical chance that could happen. The race between O'Rourke and Reyes will be within 10 points or so. You can make a claim that you were right if you're within five points here and professional polsters do it all the time when they're wrong. BUT... if you're a legitimate newspaper you don't stake your reputation on the work of high schoolers. It's bad for so many reasons.
They could have had Reuel Group to do a more modern exit poll where they grab the lists of people who have already voted and call them. Consultants who live and die by exit polls are finding this is the way to go with early voting for many reasons. The first reason is that people are a tiny bit more honest when on the phone than in person. Most people will lie to you either way when asked about a controversial political topic in order to sound like they're saying the right thing, but asking them over the phone seems to help them feel a little more comfortable telling the truth.
I don't want to bash the kids here because they are just doing what they are told. The El Paso Times knows better. Or... they don't and things are way worse over there than I could ever imagine.
Like I said on my facebook comment to the article - are they going to have a straw poll conducted in 5th grade class at Polk Elementary to decide who's going to win the Republican Senate primary?