The United States legal profession routinely deals with evidence in and out of courtrooms, but the profession is not evidence-based in a scientific sense. Lawyers, judges, and court administrators make decisions determining the lives of individuals and families by relying on gut intuition and instinct, not on rigorous evidence. Achieving access to justice requires employing a new legal empiricism. It starts with sharply defined research questions that are truly empirical. Disinterested investigators deploy established techniques chosen to fit the nature of those research questions, following established rules of research ethics and research integrity. New legal empiricists will follow the evidence where it leads, even when that is to unpopular conclusions challenging conventional legal thinking and practice.
We discuss the history of the exit poll as well as its future in an era characterized by increasingly effective and inexpensive alternatives for obtaining information. With respect to the exit poll's future, we identify and assess four purposes it might serve. We conclude that the exit poll's most important function in the future should, and probably will, be to provide information about the administration of the franchise and about the voter's experience in casting a ballot. The nature of this purpose suggests that it may make sense for academic institutions to replace media outlets as the primary implementers of exit polls.