Election 2016 polls: When will we find out which candidate is winning?

The first two states to close polls are Indiana and Kentucky, and then voters await another 48 states

Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 07 November 2016 17:18 GMT
US election night: Everything you need to know

One day before the 2016 presidential election, both candidates have everything to win - or everything to lose.

For all the barbs, insults, policy proposals and scandals, the result will only be known once the voters have cast their ballots and all state polls have closed.

Below is a round-up of the most commonly asked questions regarding the exit polls on Tuesday evening.

Are all Americans heading to the voting booths tomorrow?

No. More than 21 million people have already voted.

Do all state results come out at the same time?

No. Timings vary state to state. Results start at 6pm ET, and the last result in Alaska at midnight.

Which are the first exit polls to be released?

Out of 50 states, the first two to close their polls at 6pm Eastern Time are Indiana and Kentucky. The results might not be instant as voting in parts of each state end an hour later.

After that, the next batch of exit polls will be released after 7pm ET in the battleground state of Florida, as well as Vermont and southern states like Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.

For swing states, depending how close the result is, the votes could take hours longer to count.

When is the busiest time for poll results?

Around 8pm ET will be chock-a-block with 20 states, including key states of Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Who releases the exit poll information?

The Associated Press has more than 4,000 political reporters - known as “stringers” - who will be collecting voting data across the US. The AP has its own guidelines as to how they determine who wins in each state.

How does the AP determine the winner?

The responsibility comes down to experienced staff in each state, armed with on the ground knowledge, information on absentee and voting history, demographics and political issues that could affect the outcome. Their colleagues in Washington examine exit poll numbers on the night and the votes as they are counted. The “decision desk” in the Washington office makes the final sign-off for each result.

Will television and news networks start to call the result before it has been announced?

Networks receive information on each state and have their own analysts who may call to choose the results before it has been officially announced. Their result could be wrong, so it will be at their own risk. The official result will not be known until all states’ exit polls have been released.

If the margin is within the number of absentee ballots in a state, for example Florida has a 50,000-vote difference and they have the same nmber of absentee ballots, then the network would not call the ultimate result.

So when will we actually know who is president?

That remains anyone’s guess. If all goes smoothly, the result will be clear by midnight when the last state of Alaska releases the exit poll. If it does not go smoothly, expect the result to be announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in