Exit polls not perfect for Lok Sabha elections

2019 Election India

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) If exit polls are to be believed, the Narendra Modi government is coming back to power with full majority, but the predictions by poll survey agencies in the past have been found not to be close to the actual results.

Barring exit polls of 1998, when some of them were quite close to the actual results, the pollsters went completely wrong in mapping the electorate mood since 1996.

Riding on ‘Modi wave’, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had won 336 seats in 2014 parliamentary elections. None of the major pollsters except Today’s Chanakya had expected the NDA’s tally would cross the 300 mark.

Chanakya had projected 340 seats for the NDA and 291 for the BJP. The BJP won 282 seat.

However, other exit polls failed to assess the voters’ mood with accuracy.

ABP-Nielsen had given 281 seats to NDA while Times Now foresaw 249 seats.

CNN-IBN- CSDS Lokniti showed that the number to be between 272-280

Among others, Headlines Today and India TV- C Voter predicted that the NDA may bag 261-283 and 289 seats, respectively.

In 2009, the pollsters’ yet failed again, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won 262 seats, a figure no pollster could even come close.

The UPA managed to remain in the power with Congress increasing its tally to 206 from 145 in 2004.

The NDA scored 159 seats as against prediction of 197 by Star News-AC Nielsen and 183 by Times Now. Other polls, NDTV, and Headlines Today had given the NDA 177 and 180, respectively.

In 2004, Outlook-MDRA and Star-C-Voter had predicted incumbent Atal Bihari Vajpayee government returning to power again by giving the 290 seats and 275 seats for the NDA, respectively.

Other pollsters, Aaj Tak, and NDTV also had expected the NDA to do better than Congress and allies by giving it 248-250 seats.

However, all exit polls were wide off the mark as the NDA could bag 159 seats while the Congress and allies, which went on to form government later under UPA banner, won 262 seats.

These pollsters, except NDTV, had predicted that Congress and allies would be restricted to 200 seats.

Following the early collapse of Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, most exit polls predicted the NDA, which was a coalition of 24 political parties, would win between 329 and 336.

It won 296 seats and HT- AC Nielsen was closest to the official results as it had predicted 300 seats.

In 1998, the top four election surveys –India Today- CSDS, DRS, Outlook-AC Nielsen and Frontline- CMS predicted the NDA would get between 214 and 249– less than than the halfway mark of 272.

Eventually, the NDA got 252 seats.

In 1996, the government-controlled Doordarshan engaged Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) to conduct exit polls. It accurately predicted a fractured-mandate — the BJP fell short of the majority, but emerged as the single largest party.

Vajpayee though formed the government, but resigned before the newly installed government could complete two weeks in office. Although, it began on a positive note, but as it evolved, it brought forth in-built inconsistency in the process.

From the election results over the years, it is clear that exit polls have already failed to predict the mood of the electorate.

But, renowned psephologist, Yogendra Yadav, believes that exit polls, with only an exception in 2004, have not gone wrong all the way on indicating the direction in which electorate has voted.

“Except 2004, the exit polls have not gone wrong actually. They have clearly established the direction in which the electorate have voted. It is a myth that exit polls can make accurate predictions. It is not fair either to criticize these polls for lacking accuracy,” Yadav told IANS.

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