An evaluation of procedures and operations used by the Voter News Service for the 2000 presidential election
On November 7, 2000, U.S. citizens participated in one of the closest presidential elections in our nation’s history. And, as they have for over 36 years, members of our print and broadcast media assumed the responsibility for compiling data and projecting the outcome of races throughout the country and for the presidency as quickly and accurately as possible. The primary way in which they exercise this responsibility is through the efforts and data provided by the Voter News Service (VNS), a unique research, data collection, and statistical organization jointly owned, funded, and operated by a consortium of five television networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC) and the Associated Press.
In the wake of the highly visible and consequential projection errors and retractions that occurred in the course of news coverage that night, concerns quickly emerged among network executives, other media observers, and the Congress as to precisely what happened and why. As reported in the New York Times (Nov. 30, 2000), several VNS members initiated internal reviews of their procedures and decision processes, and some indicated that they would not renew their membership in the VNS consortium if they did not receive an “adequate explanation” for the “misinformation” on election day (Fox News) or until they were “satisfied that VNS has taken the steps needed to ensure the accuracy and integrity of its data” (NBC). Another member (ABC) indicated that they would like to see a review of the service by outside experts in cooperation with the networks and determine their future participation based on the review.