Gary Langer, director of polling at ABC News, is lamenting the errors made by pre-election polls in New Hampshire.

It is simply unprecedented for so many polls to have been so wrong. We need to know why. But we need to know it through careful, empirically based analysis. There will be a lot of claims about what happened – about respondents who reputedly lied, about alleged difficulties polling in biracial contests. That may be so. It also may be a smokescreen – a convenient foil for pollsters who’d rather fault their respondents than own up to other possibilities – such as their own failings in sampling and likely voter modeling.

Let us not forget the scenario that played out in 2004, as reported by Fox News:

By the time most of the polls closed in precincts across the country Tuesday night, real numbers began to suggest that the early estimations that had been so upbeat for Sen. John Kerry were over-inflated — so much so, that FOX News Channel decided to quit using the exit poll results Tuesday evening, calling them inaccurate and unreliable.

And in 2000:

The new pollsters had replaced the Voter News Service, a consortium of media outlets that did its own exit polling and vote counting in 2000, and was largely blamed for misjudging the 2000 election.

So, in 2000, 2004, and 2008 polling organizations have consistently called it wrong. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Three times? Where do we go from there?

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