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    FILE PHOTO: Members of election staff carry Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines after collecting them from a distribution centre at an indoor stadium ahead of the seventh and last phase of general election, in Kolkata, India, May 18, 2019.

    Indian Exit Polls: How Much Relevant They Are?

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    Exit polls are big ‘media’ events after every final polling in Indian elections, especially state-level and national elections. Though they have not been 100 % accurate in predictions, these are big indicators and influence many permutations and combinations in Indian political formations.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): Since polling for the seven-phase Indian parliamentary elections concluded on Sunday, it's time for Indian media to interpret Exit Polls conducted by independent agencies. The forecasts have indicated another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party BJP.

    Sputnik takes the readers along the Indian Exit Polls' path to underline what they mean, their relevance, accuracy-level, occasions when they went wrong, and their official timing to be publicly declared under the Indian laws.

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    Exit Polls: The Big Question

    Exit Polls are surveys conducted immediately after voters are coming out of the polling booths. The question asked is "Whom did you just vote for?" During Opinion Polls, held before elections, voters are asked "Who would you prefer to vote for?"

    Exit Polls: How Relevant

    These polls are basically survey and help one to gauge the trends in voting and ascertain roughly the voting patterns. One of the biggest challenges in exit polls is to extrapolate the trends in voting and voting patterns into number of seats won. It is an educated guess and not crystal-ball-gazing. Exit polls are not writing on the wall although they can be strong indicators of winners and losers in elections.

    Exit Polls: Accuracy Factor

    In the past, there have been many elections that have come close to showcase what is in the offing after the final results are declared. But not all surveys have been close to accuracy. The reason for these surveys at times going off the mark is based on various factors, including sample sizes, timing, new developments and basically being based on representative samples.

    One of the biggest upsets of exit poll — read miscalculation in poll results' prediction — was in 2004 when most exit polls by various independent agencies had predicted a landslide victory for the then incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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    The final results were a far cry from exit poll predictions. Contrary to prediction of 230 to 273 seats in a 543-seat lower house of the Indian parliament, the NDA could manage just 189 seats against 222 seats won by Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

    Another failure of exit polls was the 2009 national elections where exit polls predicted a neck and neck contest between the incumbent UPA and the opposition NDA. The AC Nielsen's survey predicted UPA some 199 seats while said that NDA would get 197 seats. The actual results declared that UPA had won 262 seats while the NDA could manage 159 seats.

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    Exit Polls: When Allowed to be Released

    According to the Indian laws, under Representation of the People Act, amended in 2009, the government put an embargo on exit polls till half an hour after the final vote has been cast in the ongoing elections. This embargo on release of exit polls is on electronic media as well as print media.

    Exit Polls: 2019 National Elections

    All of the Exit Poll conducting survey agencies have predicted a clear majority for the Prime Minister Modi-led National Democratic Alliance in the just concluded 2019 parliamentary elections.


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