Diminishing Returns: A Comparison of the 1968 and 2000 Election Night Broadcasts

A report by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Shorenstein Center, examines how the use of exit polling and projections of winners by major broadcast networks has changed over time. Patterson finds that although not “deeply flawed,” the potential of election night telecasts has not been fully realized. He provides recommendations to strengthen election night coverage, including:

  • Increasing correspondents’ role and reducing the anchors’ role.
  • Lengthening sound bites.
  • Reducing the use of exit polls and relying more heavily on traditional reporting.
  • Bringing the voices and faces of candidates and voters more fully into the broadcasts.
  • Increasing the display of actual vote returns and decreasing the display of exit poll results.
  • Cutting back sharply on explanations based on campaign strategy and increasing significantly the commentary on the political and policy implications of the election.

Download the report (PDF).