Gay Groups Criticize Voter News Service

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(AP) A gay and lesbian rights group complained Thursday that a polling consortium organized by television networks and The Associated Press is doing away with a key measurement of their political clout.

The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) says Voter News Service, which conducts exit polls of voters on Election Day, won’t ask this year whether the voter is gay or lesbian.

Voter News Service is a consortium organized by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, and the AP to count votes on Election Day and conduct exit polls.

It may seem like a small point, but the HRC says that question has been asked by VNS for the past decade. It has consistently measured gays and lesbians as about 4% of the electorate — a definable group that makes politicians take notice.

“You can look back to the mid-1990s at a shift in momentum for support on gay and lesbian issues,” said David Smith, spokesman for the HRC. “Elected officials began looking at our community as a vital part of the electorate and began reaching out to us in very visible ways.”

The HRC wrote about its concern to leaders of the news organizations on Tuesday. The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association also wrote a letter on Friday asking that the polling question about sexual orientation be reinstated.

Ted Savaglio, executive director of Voter News Service, said the company does not discuss publicly the questions it asks in exit polls.

VNS has completely rebuilt its exit poll system over the past two years in response to botched calls in the 2000 presidential election. With time short, it has streamlined the number of questions being asked in its exit poll.

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