On election night, November 6, 2018, Annenberg Public Policy Center’s managing director of survey research, Ken Winneg, and distinguished research fellow Talia Jomini Stroud, joined by Annenberg School of Communication alum Kristen Conrad, were hard at work behind the scenes at ABC News helping to call individual House races.
News networks like ABC employ groups of Ph.D.s and survey research experts to make sense of a mind-boggling quantity of precinct-level returns and exit polling. These experts analyze the returns and statistical models, following the data until they feel confident in their predictions.
As part of a team of six calling the House of Representatives for ABC, Winneg, Stroud, and Conrad sat in a windowless, monitor-filled room at the network’s headquarters in New York from 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, until about 2 a.m., plied with endless coffee and a dinner of chicken marsala. They were kept away from the chatter of the TV pundits so their decisions would be made purely on the data, and spent the weekend before the election doing rehearsals based on hypothetical returns, getting the kinks out of their communication and IT systems.
Winneg worked on exit polls between 1986 and 1994 as part of his former job at Chilton Research, and has been on the ABC Decision Desk calling House races since 2006. For Stroud, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication who often collaborates with APPC researchers, it was her first time on the ABC Decision Desk. Conrad, the director of custom research for survey research firm LHK Partners, has called the House of Representatives for ABC in all but one election since 1994.
“It was an exhilarating experience to see the data coming in and know how many important decisions are being made by the American public,” said Stroud. “It’s an honor to be involved in something that’s so important to the public, the media, and the government.”
In addition to Stroud, Winneg and Conrad, other Annenberg School alumni were involved in election night analysis, including Melissa Herrmann and Eran Ben-Porath, who are on the leadership team of survey research firm SSRS and have been doing exit polling analysis for CBS since 2014. While at Chilton, Winneg was responsible for hiring both Conrad and Herrmann.
“I know that graduates from Annenberg not only have the skills necessary to do the number crunching, but also the intelligence and analytical ability to do a good job,” said Winneg.
To read more, see ASC’s post here.