CNN sole network to get Puerto Rico polling

Network decides to foot entire $100,000 cost

When Puerto Rico Democrats go to the polls Sunday for its potentially historic primary, CNN will be the only network to have access to exit polling.

The network decided to foot the entire bill, which will run in the neighborhood of $100,000, after its National Election Pool partners initially decided against splitting the costs. CNN declined to discuss the cost.

CNN, along with Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and the Associated Press, comprise the NEP, which coordinates exit polling for distribution on each network and the AP. The companies usually split the costs six ways.

But in April, a meeting of NEP representatives decided not to field an exit-poll team in the June 1 primary in Puerto Rico. (Although there is a primary, Puerto Rico residents don't have the right to vote in the November election).

Exit polls have been done in most of the state primaries, with the exception of Oregon, which has no physical polling places. But they're generally not done in territories or the District of Columbia. But CNN senior vp David Bohrman said that once the network learned that NEP wouldn't do exit polling in Puerto Rico, CNN jumped at the chance.

"That struck me as nuts. We thought that Puerto Rico has more delegates than some of the states we've been covering lately and it could be a really key day, even though it's a Sunday," Bohrman told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.

The primary season's final days are running out with a calendar chock full of important events. Saturday's Democratic panel to decide the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegations could, theoretically, put Sen. Barack Obama over the top in delegate count over Sen. Hillary Clinton. Or that could happen June 3 with the Montana or South Dakota primaries. Either way, Bohrman said, Puerto Rico voters opinions should be counted.

"Learning why the voters went out and what was on their minds will hopefully give us some ability to call the race," Bohrman said. "It could be a critical day."

CNN will foot the entire bill for Sunday's exit polls, instead of paying only a sixth. The polling will still be done by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, although now CNN will be its only client. Edison Media Research declined to comment for this story, although a spokesman said the NEP members decide amongst themselves which exit polls to field.

Bohrman said CNN will treat the information as exclusive, meaning that no other network nor the AP will be able to use the material. Other NEP partners later went to CNN, only to be turned away.

"We've shouldered this and kept it alive," Bohrman said.

That's not sitting well with some networks, who say that it might be short-sighted of CNN to do that. They also wonder about the cost of an exit poll in a primary where the polling stations close at 3 p.m. ET and are likely to be called in time for the network evening newscasts.

CBS director of polling and surveys Kathy Frankovic declined to be critical about CNN's plans but said she wasn't concerned about a lack of information.

"The polls there close at 3 p.m. so there will be plenty of votes available to make a timely projection of delegates," Frankovic said.

CBS, Fox News, NBC and the Associated Press, however, be a part of an effort to conduct telephone polling of Puerto Rico Democrats. Sheldon Gawiser, director of elections for NBC and MSNBC, said that in April when NEP made its decision the Puerto Rico primary didn't factor in as important as it does now.

"But now it might become pretty important as this campaign keeps going and going," Gawiser said. "We decided we wanted to have a little bit more help in our analysis."

He believes the telephone poll, which will have a field house on the island and be run by Princeton Survey Research, will work well.