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Vote-watching on election night

By Arthur Unger / November 3, 1980



New York

Polls as well as pols will be the order of the night as returns roll in to TV channels this election day. Despite the fact that many professional pollsters have been attacking the allegedly "nonscientific samplings" utilized by some TV networks is reporting on the campaign, most of the networks plan to continue their own polling, sampling, projecting, and predicting as the voting figures are reported. Coming under widespread criticism has been the ABC telephone poll following last Tuesday's debate in which around 700,000 callers gave Ronald Reagan a 2-to edge over Jimmy Carter.

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In many instances, anticipated results may even be broadcast before the polls close in some local areas. Although there is some attempt to avoid this, especially in local contests, the great competition among the networks often results in trigger-happy prognostications. This is a practice which, some observers feel, may influence certain late voters.

Since coverage of national election night returns is considered to be the "Super Bowl" event in network news, there is great competition among the three commercial networks. John Chancellor told The Christian Science Monitor he considers the quality of such coverage the real test of any network's news department. Thus each of the three major commercial networks has expanded and enhanced its regular news staff to cover the election returns. Each has planned special polling and early-prediction features. ABC

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Eatern standard time and will continue until major contests are decided. co-anchors from New York will be Frank Reynolds and Ted Koppel with correspondents Barbara Walters, Max Robinson, Robert MacNeil (of the MacNeil/Lehrer Report), Tom Wicker (of the New York Times) contributing commentary and analysis.

ABC is conducting its first national "exil poll," to give early assessments of the "why" behind the vote. conducted in 300 locations across the country, the poll will tabulate the opinions of more than 6,000 voters as they leave the polls. NBC

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. EST and continues until all results are final. Co-anchors will be John Chancellor and david Brinkley (if he is able, after an indisposition) with Tom Brokaw and Jessica Savitch adding commentary and analysis. Political historian Theodore h. White will also offer commentary.

NBC News will project winners in all major races except the Louisiana Senate race where Sen. Russell B. Long won his seat in September.

An NBC/Associated Press election-day poll of between 15,000 and 20,000 voters will be taken as they leave the polls and will cover who was voted for . . . and why. Pollsters will be stationed at 400 locations thoughout the US. CBS

Ye olde faithful , Walter Cronkite, will anchor the CBS coverage, starting at 7 p.m. EST and continuing to the bitter end. Dan Rather will cover the Midwest, Harry Reasoner the East, Bob Schieffer the South, and Lesley Stahl the West. analyzing and commenting will be Bill Moyers, Jeff Greenfield, and James J. Kilpartrick.

The CBS/NY Times poll will be covered by Bruce Morton. PBS

Public Broadcasting Service plans to allow its member stations to cover local contests and will feed 55-second national updates every half hour to supplement the local coverage. Jack Cole of WGBH/Boston will anchor the updates.

PBS tends to avoid predictions and projections . . . but there is much local option. SIN

Spanish-speaking viewers will also get live election returns by way of SIN, the National Spanish Television Network. Beginning at 7 p.m. EST SIN's 68 satelliteinterconnected affiliates will air coverage of all contests. Co-anchors will be Guillermo Restrepo, Guillermo Descalzi, and Leticia Callava. Commentary will be provided by former congressman and Deputy Mayor of New York Herman Badillo. RADIO

For those who plan to lend only their ears to the election results, better check local stations and smaller networks. The three major commercial networks plan only limited "minireports" so as not to interfere with local entertainment coverage.

However, such networks as Mutual and National Public Radio plan much more extensive coverage. CNN

Cable News Network, the 24-hour cable news network, will probably be offering the most coverage of all, since much of its coverage on election day will naturally concentrate on election-day activities. However, starting at 8 p.m., CNN plans to continue its normal pattern with complete national and international coverage, with late election-result cut-ins.

Anchoring from Atlanta will be Mary Alice Williams and Bernard Shaw. Anchoring from Washington will be Daniel Schorr with commentary from Stuart Loory and Rowland Evans Jr. and Robert Novak.