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Reality check on Exit Polls-2017


Exit Polls Today

By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun 6 Mar: It is generally believed that, while the opinion polls give only a sketchy picture of the popularity of various political parties in the fray in any particular state during the assembly polls and during the general elections, the exit polls tend to give a more accurate picture of what is likely to be the outcome of the elections. This is because the agencies that conduct the exit polls claim the data has been collected based on communication with the voters after the polling has taken place. Hence, the claims of greater accuracy as compared to the opinion polls. The agencies further claim that the database of their exit poll surveys is broader than that gathered during the opinion polls.
Uttarakhand, which had polling for the new assembly on 14 February, is now waiting for the counting of votes due on 10 March, along with the counting in the four other states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. Uttar Pradesh will have its seventh and last phase of polling for the assembly elections tomorrow. Tomorrow evening as the polling ends at 6 p.m., the news channels, newspapers as well as portals will be free to publish or broadcast the results of exit polls. Even as the politicians, the media as well as common person is eagerly waiting for the exit polls to be broadcast tomorrow evening to get some idea whether BJP is retaining or losing power, or the Congress will manage to come back to power, let us undertake a reality check on the Exit Polls of 2017 to see how accurate they were on Uttarakhand.
Interestingly, none of the agencies could predict the actual outcome with their exit polls either in Uttarakhand or in UP in 2017. Most agencies predicted a photo-finish or close fight between the Congress, which was then the ruling party, and the BJP. C-Voter, which is one of the leading survey agencies in the country, had predicted a close fight with, both, BJP and Congress winning 32 seats, each, and others winning up to 5 seats. In fact, while C-Voter was certain about the Congress winning 32 seats, with regard to the BJP, it chose to give a range between 29 and 34 seats.
MRC had predicted 38 seats for the BJP and 32 seats for the Congress, while CSDS predicted 32 to 42 seats for the BJP and 23-29 for the Congress. It had given between 3 and 9 seats to the others. Network 18-Gramener had predicted 38 seats for the BJP and 26 seats for the Congress, with 6 seats going to the others. Only Today Chanakya and Axis had proved to have closely predicted the actual outcome. Today’s Chanakya predicted 53 seats for the BJP and 15 seats for the Congress, with just 2 seats to the others. On the other hand, Axis had predicted 46 to 53 seats for the BJP, between 12 to 21 seats for the Congress and 2 to 6 seats for the others.
It may be recalled that BJP actually won 57 seats out of 70 in Uttarakhand, with Congress barely managing to win 11. Not only this, the outgoing Chief Minister Harish Rawat had lost on both the seats he contested, namely Haridwar Rural and Kichha (US Nagar). In fact, while the independents could win 2 seats, no other party, be it the BSP or UKD, could win even a single seat in the 2017 assembly polls.
It can be safely concluded that most agencies could not gauge the public mood or the polling trend in Uttarakhand. In fact, a couple of agencies had predicted a narrow win for the Congress, though in reality it was reduced to its worst ever performance, and was swept away, barely winning 11 seats.
While the exit polls will be broadcast tomorrow evening, let us take a glance on the opinion polls on the 2022 polls. Al the opinion polls have again predicted a close fight, with a majority of them giving a very thin majority to the BJP and just two giving an edge to the Congress. It, therefore, remains to be seen how accurate the exit polls and the opinion polls turn out to be on Uttarakhand and, for this, we have to wait for the actual outcome on 10 March. Till then the guessing game will continue irrespective of the outcome of the exit polls tomorrow.
Just to indicate how wrong the exit polls can go, it needs to be reminded that, on Uttar Pradesh, the exit polls in 2017 had failed to gauge the public mood and the actual results. While the majority of the exit polls had predicted a hung house with BJP emerging as the single largest party, just two exit polls had indicated that BJP would win a majority, but they, too, had indicated a maximum of 225 seats to the BJP whereas, in reality, BJP Plus could win 325 seats with Samajwadi Party being reduced to just 50 odd seats. This is just another example of how off mark the surveys can go. So, enjoy the excitement of the Exit Polls, but the truth will become known only on 10 March.