Possible errors in exit polls suggest more election year surprises ahead

Are the exit polls, on which just about every elections analyst has relied, wrong? That's a question raised by New York Times Upshot writer Nate Cohn — a question whose answers have serious implications for how you look at the 2016 general election.

Standard analysis is that Democrats have a built-in advantage because the electorate is increasingly non-white. The exit polls say the white percentage of the electorate declined from 77 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2008 and 72 percent in 2012. In that year, they said, 13 percent of voters were black, 10 percent Hispanics, 3 percent Asian.

These groups have been voting heavily Democratic, by varying margins, and analysts have argued that it's very hard for a Republican to win, especially one who has antagonized non-whites like Donald Trump.

But exit polls may not be accurate, Cohn argues. As he points out, they are designed not to accurately represent the proportions of each demographic group, but to indicate the actual result, within a statistical margin of error, and to show the differing responses of significant subgroups.

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