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Exit polls are not exact polls

After the conclusion of last and ninth phase of General Election, every news channel conducted an exit poll. Top psephologist grabbed the seats in channels studio and were doing the post mortems of the data which they possessed. Even politicians were involved in debating with their counterparts. Everybody is sure that Narendra Modi will become the next Prime Minister of India. From social media to electronic and print media, all have simply gone mad in hailing the dream journey of Modi from a tea seller to the Prime Minister of India. Moreover, majority of people active on social media are expressing happiness realizing that the change they had expected is going to happen. However as a caution to everyone, can the exit-polls be trusted!

In 2004 all exit polls indicated about the return of Vajpayee government, whereas the result was contrary. Similarly, in 2009 all results indicated that neither UPA nor NDA will get clear mandate, resulting in to the possibility of a third-front government. But the actual results made UPA even stronger!

Thus question is, whether we can rely on the 2014 general election’s exit polls? Before making a comment let me explain what exit poll is? Exit poll is an election survey among the voters who just have voted. The sample size is a very important. Sometimes a bigger sample gives wrong result whereas at times very small sample gives accurate results. In western countries generally the diversity among voters is less. Hence conversion from voter percentage to seat projection is very easy there and generally their prediction comes correct.

In India although Psephologists are generally right on voting percentage but make error while converting it into seat projection. The western method fails here because of huge diversity among nature, ideology, attitude, loyalty etc among the Indian voters. Here along with sample size, the political position, voters turn out, type of under-current etc are also to be considered as a factor.

For example, in 2004 definitely there was a strong under-current in the favour of Vajpayee government. But there was a bad relationship between RSS and BJP because of Vajpayee’s assertion. BJP activists too became over confident and the overall voters turn out was less (around 57.65 per cent). That made BJP to lose the elections where as the Congress in association with the Left Front formed government as UPA-I.

Similarly in 2009, again the voter’s turnout was less (56.97 per cent). Manmohan Singh had an undercurrent in his favour, Advani appeared to be a weak leader and confusing one, his comments on Jinnah made him quite unpopular among the party cadres and also his attack on Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister was not accepted by the middle class. These were the factors not considered by the psephologists and the expected that neither UPA nor NDA would get the mandate.

Should we discard the present exit poll results? I would say before discarding let’s examine the exit poll results of 1998 and 1999 general elections.

In both the exit-poll results, although psephologists couldn’t make their numbers right but they gave the correct trend. These were experiment times for psephologists. In 1998 they over-estimated NF-LF despite the failures but exactly sensed BJP’s surge and Congress’s weak condition. Two other aspects although not considered by them had helped them to predict the trend correctly. First is the voters turnout in 1998 was 61.97% and both BJP and RSS worked in tandem on the field.

In 1999 they really identified the pro-Vajpayee under-current. First there was sympathy for the NDA government after they were defeated by one vote in the parliament followed by the victory in Kargil war. The Congress too was facing internal problems as Sharad Pawar-led NCP deserted the party. The two aspects of 1998 worked in favour of the saffron party. The voter turnout was 59.99% and not to forget that RSS and BJP were working in tandem for the BJP government.

Thus I think the above factors are considered by Psephologists this time. However there is a gap of 91 seats between seat projection made in favor of NDA by the two exit polls. Times Now gave NDA 249 seats where as News24-Chanakya gave it 340 seats. Thus I am damn sure that this exit-poll too wouldn’t be right on numbers, but like 1998 and 1999 they would be right on the trend that this election is advantage NDA!

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