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Fox News definitely just broke the rules for exit polls

This is what Fox News looked like at about 6:07 pm Eastern time tonight:

Fox News exit polls

The problem? Polls don't close in New Hampshire until 8 pm — and Fox isn't supposed to show exit poll results until then:

when polls close in New Hampshire

(Tyson Whiting/Vox)

Here's more on how Fox News broke the rules:

The media outlets running the exit poll want to be able to describe who's voting, and who they're voting for, to the public as early as possible. But they don't want to have any influence on who ends up voting — they don't want anyone deciding not to vote because they've already seen what the exit polls say, and they don't think their vote will matter. (There's some evidence that this happened back in 1980, when some outlets projected that Ronald Reagan would win the presidential election before polls closed on the West Coast.)

In some countries, like the United Kingdom, it's actually illegal for any media outlet to report exit poll results before the polls close. In the US, it's not illegal, but there's a binding agreement among the media outlets that run the exit poll that none of them is allowed to leak any results before the polls have closed.

Way to go, Fox News. Way to go.


UPDATE: It looks like Fox News disagrees with the other media outlets that run the exit poll about what the terms of their agreement actually are. A Fox executive told Politico's Dylan Byers that since Fox didn't project the winner of the race until the polls had closed in New Hampshire, it was within the rules. But a representative from another outlet that owns the poll told Byers that Fox wouldn't be allowed to post "any exit polls which might reveal who wins or what the race looks like."

That's backed up by the Washington Post's 2012 description of the agreement (emphasis added):

Until polls close in each state, there are clear restrictions on reporting estimates of HOW voters are voting -- either overall or among subgroups -- so nearly all data released at this point will be -- should be -- describing WHO the electorate is (e.g. the percent are men, independent, under 30), and how they answer substantive questions such as the most important issue in their vote (a guess, anyone?).

Check out Vox's liveblog of the 2014 midterm elections.