Networks Agree to Hold Election Projections Until Polls Close

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NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/Ken Bode
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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In 1985, the three major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) agree not to characterize election results based on exit surveys until polls are closed. The announcement comes after the networks strike a deal with Congress.



"Networks Agree to Hold Election Projections Until Polls Close." Ken Bode, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 17 Jan. 1985. NBC Learn. Web. 21 January 2015.


Bode, K. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1985, January 17). Networks Agree to Hold Election Projections Until Polls Close. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Networks Agree to Hold Election Projections Until Polls Close" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 01/17/1985. Accessed Wed Jan 21 2015 from NBC Learn:


Networks Agree to Hold Election Projections until Polls Close

Tom Brokaw, anchor: Congress versus the television networks: the issue is exit polls and whether they discourage people in Western states from voting.

Today NBC, CBS and ABC agreed not to characterize election results based on

these surveys -- these exit surveys of voters -- until polls in their states close. The agreement was announced by Democratic Congressman Al Swift of Washington and Republican Bill Thomas of California. Ken Bode reports tonight the next step may be a single closing time for voting places around the country.

News Reporter: And NBC News now makes its projection for the presidency. Reagan is our projected winner.

Ken Bode, reporting: Early network projections. That problem came to a head today when two congressmen, both members of a House elections task force, said the networks had agreed, had given their word, not to use exit polls to project or characterize election results until the polls closed in each state.

Rep. WILLIAM THOMAS, California: The networks have taken themselves out of the problem. If polls don’t close at the same time in all the states, that’s a problem Congress can address.

Bode: They promised hearings to address the question of a uniform poll closing time nationwide. Keep the polls open until 10 PM in the east. for example, and close them at

7 o’clock in the west. That way no state would be projected while voters are still voting, at least not anywhere in the continental United States. NBC News President Lawrence Grossman said today’s statement represents no change in current policy. In 1984, NBC made projections only after the polls closed and actual votes were released state by state. NBC News said it will continue to report, in a timely fashion, information based on interviews with candidates, statements from campaign officials and so forth.

Not so optimistic as his colleagues is Congressman Tim Worth, a critic of early network projections. Worth says more network restraint is the answer, not changes in polling hours.

Rep. Timothy Worth, (D) Colorado: Why should 50 states have to run around and change a whole series of laws to meet the whim of three network news executives. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Bode: So if everyone involved agrees to this proposal, Americans may begin voting at different times but they will all finish at exactly the same time. And then the race to project the winner will begin, Ken Bode, NBC News at the capital.