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Relevancy of exit polls in India
From the evening of 19th May, 2019 the exit polls in the news channels started to come. Though the counting of votes was on May 23, but according to the exit polls, "Modi government" was coming back to power.
It was being said that BJP will not need any other party's support to get a magical figure of 251 seats. According to the News-X-Leader app, the number of BJP seats would be the highest, but it could be 60 to 80 seats less than the last time. According to most exit poll, the BJP may have slight disadvantage in those states where it had performed well last time. However, the BJP would be able to compensate in West Bengal and Odisha. Last time, the most accurate forecasting agency, Today's Chanakya had said that BJP will come back to power. In the exit poll of CNN News18-IPSOS, BJP has been shown to get majority, but India Today-Axis and Republic-C Voter say that the BJP will need its allies to cross the majority figure.

In the exit poll, in Uttar Pradesh the BJP seemed to be getting a tough fight from the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the National Lok Dal. The exit polls estimated the number of Congress seats would double. Last time the Congress had got only 44 seats. In most of the exit polls, YSR Congress had been projected to win the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, but under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal appears to be once again come back in power. However, in some exit polls, BJP can win most of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

According to the exit poll, in Maharashtra and Gujarat the BJP would retain its seats, while winning two-thirds of seats in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The performance of the BJP coalition in Bihar would be good while there would be significant improvement in its performance in West Bengal. The BJP in the last election won two seats in West Bengal and one seat in Odisha. Most of the exit polls predicted the victory of the coalition led by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on most of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu. However, the enthusiasm of the Opposition parties did not get cold due to the exit polls. They were still dreaming of forming the government. 

To show exit polls by news channels is essential for raising TRP (television ratings points). Under the TRP, popularity of television channels shows as a percentage for a certain period. Television channels get advertisements on the basis of TRP, thereby increasing their profits. Because of this, no news channel wants to be behind in the contest of referendum.

It is noteworthy that in the general election of 2009 and 2014, many cases were found to mislead the people through the paid news and paid referendum, which changed the trend of voting trends. Therefore, this time, the Election Commission had banned to get shown exit polls during the voting. To keep the dignity of democratic values intact, it is essential that non-autocratic acts should not be encouraged.

In our country, the media is still trusted blindly. People often refer the stories published in the newspapers to keep or prove their point. Based on the news published in the newspaper, the power is changed. The police or the CBI also refers to the news published in the newspaper as a proof. Since the arrival of electronic media, there has been an unprecedented increase in the influence and extent of the media.

It is imperative for the voter to be influenced by misleading reports or news. Proliferation of paid news, false propaganda, publication of false news etc. increases the likelihood of a wrong selection of leader or party. Even today, there is a wave of a particular party or an anti-incumbency factor works in our country and there is no place for thought or reasoning in such a wave of anti-incumbency factor. Indeed, the number of actual literates still very low in our country. For this reason, voting is done on the basis of caste and religion. 

Since the arrival of electronic media, the trend of referendum has increased, which can be seen in totality by connecting with TRP. When the referendum is proved right, the news channel show it as their big victory. Second important reason is that media houses are close to politician or political parties. Owners of most of South India's Newspaper and News channels are the corporates; all of them use the media for their own benefit. If the corporates are the owner of the media house, then they will definitely support their parties in the referendum. Similarly, if the owner of a media house collecting a referendum is a businessman then he will support any particular party, because all the corporates currently support a particular political party. Their business flourishes only after the grace of the government. 

In other perspective, the results of such exit polls does not correct every time. Usually the survey is done on the sample basis. In the referendum, there are usually asked questions from hundreds of voters in one or two cities, but on the basis of that, the trends of voting across the country cannot be assured. Due to these weaknesses, the results of exit polls in the past have been proved wrong. It is important to mention here that in the surveys conducted in the year 2009, it was told that the NDA would get the power, but the claims made in the surveys proved to be false when the election results declared. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the results were in contrast to the survey in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It has also been observed that every exit poll estimates are different. 

India is a developing country. Most of the people here are still illiterate, some are literate, but only for the name. Only the number of literates writing the names is still in our country in crores. In addition to this, almost 70 per cent of India's population still resides in villages and they don't participate in such referendum. Caste and religion often influence the public's decision. Therefore, in this period of transition, the credibility of referendum cannot be considered beyond doubt. Psephology has been given the status of science and its expert is considered a Psychologist, but this science has no usefulness in the context of India. India is a vast country and it is not practical to make such a referendum here. 

About the author: Satish Singh is currently working as Chief Manager in State Bank of India's Economic Research Department, Corporate Centre, Mumbai, and has been writing mainly on financial and banking topics for the last 10 years.
Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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