Time to show the door to Exit Polls?

14 Mar,2017


By Ranjona Banerji


Uttar Pradesh

Exit Polls

Today’s Chanakya: BJP+ 285, SP Congress 88, BSP 27

Times Now-VMR: BJP+ 190-210, SP-Congress 110-130, BSP 57-74

India News-MRC: BJP+ 185, SP-Congress 120, BSP 90

India Today-Axis: BJP+ 251-279, SP-Congress 88-112, BSP 28-42

India TV-CVoter: BJP+ 155-167, SP-Congress 135-147, BSP 81-93

ABP-Lokniti CSDS: BJP+ 164-176, SP-Congress 155-169, BSP 60-72

Voters: BJP+ 325, SP-Congress 54, BSP 19



Exit polls

Today’s Chanakya: AAP 54, Congress 54, SAD-BJP 9

India Today-Axis: AAP 42-51, Congress 62-71, SAD-BJP 4-7

ABP-Lokniti CSDS: AAP 36-46, Congress 46-56, SAD-BJP 19-27

India TV-CVoter: AAP 59-67, Congress 41-49, SAD-BJP 5-13

Voters: AAP 22, Congress 77, SAD-BJP 18



Exit Polls

Today’s Chanakya BJP 53, Congress 15

India TV-CVoter BJP 29-35, Congress 29-35

India Today-Axis BJP 46-53, Congress 12-21

Voters: BJP 57, Congress 11



Exit Polls

India TV-CVoter: BJP 25-31, Congress 17-23

NewsX-MRC: BJP 16-32, Congress 30-36

Voters: BJP 21, Congress 28



Exit Polls

India TV-CVoter: BJP 15-21, Congress 12-18, AAP 4

NewsX-MRC BJP 15, Congress 10, AAP 7

Voters: Congress 18, BJP 14, AAP 0


Should one start by being kind? Scour through the exit polls to see who got it nearly right? Take UP. Everyone suggested that there was a surge for the BJP, especially from Phase 4 of voting onwards. In that sense, all the exit polls were correct. The BJP was the winner. But if one wanted a general idea of who was winning, why would you do an exit poll? The best that the exit polls gave the BJP in Uttar Pradesh was 285, from Today’s Chanakya. The Samajwadi Party and Congress alliance was not doing so badly according to the pollsters and apart from Today’s Chanakya, everyone else thought Mayawati and the BSP might come up with some decent numbers.


The voters had other ideas altogether. In fact, the voters’ ideas were so different from the pollsters’ ideas that it is unfair to even say that Today’s Chanakya is the winner because it got it so wrong. Unless my arithmetic is very faulty, the BJP’s final tally beat Today’s Chanakya’s forecast by 40 seats. Mayawati and the BSP managed a pretty dismal tally of 19 seats and the Samajwadi Party and Congress could not do better than 54. That is, even Today’s Chanakya gave the BSP eight seats more than it would get and every exit poll gave the SP-Congress combine much more than the voters did. The lowest was Today’s Chanakya with 88 and minus 54 from that and you get it wrong by 34 seats.


Don’t want to do it statewise because it’s so tedious? Take the AamAadmi Party’s seat-gathering ability then. According to our crystal ballgazers, Arvind Kejriwal’s push for a middle class, corruption-free India would win between 71 (CVoter, Punjab plus Goa) and 36 (ABP-Lokinit CSDS only Punjab) seats in two states. What did AAP win? A total of 22 seats in Punjab and zero in Goa.


To say that there is a serious need for the media and for exit pollsters to relook at their methodology is a gross understatement. It may be better to admit that you have no idea what is going on that to get it so wrong. Many journalists one spoke to privately admitted just as much. In the end, even ground reports did not suggest the sort of victory that the BJP got in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. And while everyone was sure that the SAD-BJP alliance was going to lose Punjab, everyone also expected a bigger chunk of Punjab going to AAP.


It is interesting, as an aside, to see how much our national media cares about India’s smaller states. Only two exit polls each were conducted for Manipur and Goa and it is as ever significant that both polls did not get it right.


Today, after the results are out, hindsight has made us all wiser and some of us, illogically but egotistically, prescient. In fact, all that is rubbish. There is something going on in the Indian voters’ mind which is not being picked up by the media. You can choose between love for NarendraModi (UP and Uttarakhand but not Punjab, Goa and Manipur), joy over demonetisation, no joy over demonetisation, Hindu consolidation, the end of caste, the end of the Muslim vote, shoddy electronic voting machines and the arrival of new voters from Mars.


Either editors in newsrooms do not listen to what their reporters tell them or reporters doctor their reports to fit in with newsroom ideas. Or, even worse and even more likely, few national newsrooms have enough people on the ground thanks to cost-cutting and the low value given to newsgathering by managements. That is why so many newsrooms houses rely so strongly on exit polls to do the work that they can no longer do. One cannot be certain that it is working. In fact, one can be perfectly sure that it is not.



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