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Catching Trends


Over the years, exit and opinion polls have greatly lost their credibility, simply because their predictions are all over the place. If they were actually being done scientifically, they would not be showing results that covered every part of the spectrum. If, in varied manner, the polls project every permutation and combination, it is obvious that a particular one will get it right. This is usually remembered, while the failures are forgotten. In the early days, the polls had developed a reputation for accuracy, but it seems the technique is slipshod in the present. Sadly, it is a sad development for the field of statistics and Psephology.

It is possible that opinion polls have become a means to actually influence voters, which is why they generate so much heat. This may also be why they have such different outcomes. Over time, the voters, too, have realised this and developed some immunity to following the supposed trend. In the case of exit polls, however, the effort should be made to get as close an estimate possible or the agencies concerned should not bother. It would be preferable if people with experience and knowledge of the election scene discuss specifics of what occurred during elections, which would be informative and educative for the general populace. Unfortunately, here too there is much subjectivity. There are few who can stay above the fray and provide an objective understanding of trends.

Another negative fallout of this tendency is the growing lack of faith even in constitutional institutions such as the Election Commission and the general administration. This is despite the undisputable fact that elections have increasingly been fairer and more inclusive over the years, since the times when entire sections of people could be excluded through intimidation and trickery. This has, of course, not entirely been eliminated, particularly as crooked politicians are continuously finding ways to get around the system. A general consensus needs to be created so that the challenges to constitutional conventions are discouraged and adequately dealt with. There certainly can be no scope for Trump style efforts to influence vote-counting and announcement of results, such as the exhortation by some for farmers to surround counting centres in parts of Western UP.

The recent exit polls are not finding favour for various reasons among politicians. Some find the predictions on Punjab unsavoury, others cannot stomach Yogi’s purported lead in UP, while others disagree with the close contest claim in Uttarakhand. If these match the actual results, there is need to accept the reality with good grace, and work to give a better performance next time around.