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Hot Takes #5 & #6: Stephanie Luce and Universal Preschool NOW

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Election 2020 hot takes calling for caution about exit polls and reporting on a Tax the Rich win in Portland.


November 4 Message from OrgUp: Count Every Vote

#5: A word of caution about exit polls and about Real Clear Politics

Usually exit polls are the best source of data to find out quickly who voted for particular candidates, including the demographics. In the past, pollsters would talk to people as they came out of the voting booths to capture who they voted for and basic characteristics (gender, race, household income, if they are from a union household).

In some ways these polls were considered more reliable than pre-election polls as they were only capturing those people who did actually vote.

With the increase in mail voting and early voting, exit polls are harder to conduct. Pollsters have to adjust by doing a phone survey to capture those voting by mail, and show up in person to early voting. This introduces more variation into the exit poll. After all ballots are in, statisticians will need to estimate what share of votes came from each of the voting methods and weight the exit polls accordingly.

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For these reasons, polling experts from the website FiveThirtyEight warn to be wary of exit polls, especially those released on election night. They won’t likely have been weighted correctly, and they can easily throw off results. Over time, as statisticians collect more data on the actual voting methods the results can be weighted. Still, Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight suggests waiting for more reliable sources of voter characteristic data such as verified voter survey data or academic studies.

Unfortunately this means we can’t reliably rely on exit polls to tell us the characteristics of voters this year: at least not right away.

FiveThirtyEight is one of the most popular and reliable sites that reports on polls around the country, as well as aggregates polls into a forecast. A similar site is Real Clear Politics. The site appears to be a neutral poll aggregator but others have pointed out that the owner of the company behind the site is conservative and a Trump supporter. Some analysts still rated their aggregate polls as reliable but Nate Cohn of the New York Times writes that the site is no longer credible as it has recently begun to adjust the data it includes deliberately to favor Trump.

Stephanie Luce is a professor at the School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY. She is the author of Labor Movements: Global Perspectives and Fighting for a Living Wage. Her writing can be found at

#6: A tax the rich win in Portland

Can a grassroots coalition, working in a pandemic, leverage the citizens’ initiative process to put a universal program funded by taxing the rich on the ballot – and win?

The Portland, Oregon-area Universal Preschool NOW Coalition (UP NOW) proved the answer is YES. This coalition of dozens of community groups (including the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Portland Association of Teachers, and others) set out to provide free preschool to every 3- and 4-year-old in the county, with a significant wage increase for preschool workers to no less than $18 an hour. Organizers gathered more than 32,000 signatures in five weeks (the timeline truncated by frivolous lawsuits from the business lobby) to qualify for the ballot.

Measure 26-214, on the ballot as Preschool For All, was the result of a merger with an initially more targeted, means-tested program promoted by local philanthropic investors and championed by a county commissioner. By passing the final, ambitious combined plan, the people of Multnomah County affirmed their support for UP NOW’s core principles of universality, fair wages, and funding through a tax on high incomes. Organizers hope this experience – both the campaign and the legislation – can become a model for communities across the country to organize around.

Learn more at

The full list of organizations that are part of the UP NOW Coalition can be found here.

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