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Mitofsky, 'father of exit polling,' dies at 72

From Keating Holland
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WASHINGT0N (CNN) -- Warren Mitofsky, considered by many to be the "father of exit polling," died of heart failure in New York on Friday. He was 72.

Mitofsky changed the way the media covers elections by pioneering the use of exit polls to project winners in U.S. elections beginning in the 1960s. He also developed many of the telephone polling techniques still in use today.

Mitofsky worked for CBS News for nearly three decades before leaving in 1990 to head Voter Research and Surveys, the first network exit poll consortium.

When Mitofsky joined CBS in the 1960s, political pollsters relied on house-to-house interviews to project winners of elections in the coming days.

Mitofsky developed the technique of canvassing people soon after they voted into a staple of modern news coverage, changing the way elections were covered and "called" by network news.

Mitofsky went on to develop techniques that made polls conducted by telephone reliable and affordable, once again changing the way the media covered politics.

In the mid-1990s he founded Mitofsky International, a firm that conducted exit polls outside the United States and made Mitofsky a recognized brand-name worldwide.

Since 2003, Mitofsky led the election-night analysis for the News Election Pool, providing exit poll results and election projections in the 2004 primaries and general election for The Associated Press and five TV networks, including CNN.

Mitofsky also was a leader of the CNN election night decision team from 1996 to 2002.

Mitofsky's most recent work overseas was as a consultant in the closely watched elections in Mexico in July in which his exit polls correctly forecast that the race would be decided by the slimmest of margins.

At his death, Mitofsky was working on the system the News Election Pool will use in the midterm elections this fall. The work for the 2006 election cycle will continue under the guidance of Edison Media Research, Mitofsky's partner throughout 2004.

According to The Associated Press, Mitofsky is survived by his wife, Mia Mather of New York; two children, Bryan Mitofsky of Montpelier, Vermont, and Elisa Clancy of Hyde Park, Vermont; a sister, Lenore Leby, of Williamsport, New York; and four grandchildren.



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