• An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted.

Available online evidence on on who coined the expression and on when it was first used appears to be contradictory.

According to Wikipedia:

  • Marcel van Dam, Dutch sociologist and former politician, is credited with having invented the exit poll, and being the first to implement an exit poll during the Dutch legislative elections on February 15, 1967.

while according to the A Brief History of Exit Polling By Kate Pickert from the TIME:

  • Exit polling — surveying people leaving voting locations about the ballots they cast — debuted in the 1960s, as news organizations (and on a small scale, candidates) sought to gather demographic data about voters that could be used to predict election results.

Etynomline gives a later date:

and Ngram:

  • shows evidence of this expression from the 70's.


When was the expression exit poll actually coined and by whom?

When was it first used?

  • I think you're mixing up sources saying when the process itself was first used "professionally", and others saying when people started calling that process an exit poll. Jul 5, 2015 at 15:52
  • @FumbleFingers - so the Marcel van Dam never called it "exit poll" but just put the process into practice, is that what you mean?
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2015 at 15:58
  • ...this 1962 source implies Marcel van Dam wasn't the first to adopt the process: Unfortunately, this publication does not differentiate between announcements of a position in the Congressional Record and announcements on a post-vote poll Congressional Quarterly conducts itself. Jul 5, 2015 at 16:00
  • The first time I recall hearing the term would be around 1980, but certainly it could have been used by small groups of people much earlier. Consider that even if the process were called "exit poll" by the pollsters among themselves, it likely would have been translated to "post-vote poll" or some such when presented to the press.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 5, 2015 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


OED confirms that it is first used in 1980:

Exit polls showed Reagan picking up as many Democratic crossover votes as Anderson was.

1980, Washington Post 2 Apr. a12

Google Ngram gives false positive results from 1962 but it goes back to 1980 for the actual result. It seems like the practice has started in 1967 but the term is coined in 1980.

  • Thanks for the OED reference. So it appears that is was a practiced used from the 60's but called "exit poll" from the 80's. By whom? On what circumstances?
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:04
  • @Josh61: I found this 1962 reference but I thought it is false positive because it happens. I can't be sure for this one but there are, for sure, false positive results if you check other sources from 1962 and earlier. And for 1980 reference, I think newspapers started to call it "exit poll" but I couldn't find a name.
    – ermanen
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:18
  • Another source from 1980 uses the term regarding a law.
    – ermanen
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:19
  • The following source (1971) books.google.it/… appears to refer to an already existing expression.
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:24
  • @Josh61: There are false positive results based on dates as well. For example, it says "exit poll" is used in this book and it gives the year 1971; but actually it is the third edition of the book and it is published in 2001. If you check the content of the book, it talks about elections in 2000 also.
    – ermanen
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:32

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