Predicting pollsters

The ban on poll-astrology some years back was heart-breaking news for Media. Predictions, particularly the exit polls, whatever their credibility, released right on the evening of poll-day, constituted much of primetime and contributed hugely to TRP in a highly competitive environ.

The exit sign was shown to pollsters in the context of multi-phased elections in order to prevent undue influence on ‘subsequent’ voters that such surveys of earlier ones may exercise. It is really a questionable point if people would be so easily swayed in favour of ‘prospective’ winning parties. It is a gross insult to the intelligence of the voters to deem they are vulnerable to random opinion seekers.

On the flip side, it is stupid on the part of pollsters to expect that a voter would reveal his / her favoured candidate to a total stranger, mostly an enthusiastic intern. I wouldn’t and neither would the pollster, the boss or the head of the media. In fact, it is an inviolable, sacred, personal secret, not to be sought or shared. And then there is the problem of credibility vis-a-vis the size and nature of sample. Indeed, a poll of such exit polls would prove that the pollsters almost always got it wrong and anyway deserved to be shown the exit gate, on the ground of sheer gambling or guesswork.

Still, the media houses and professional pollsters are not deterred. They have done their homework already and are eagerly waiting for the evening of 19 May to unleash their earth shattering revelations. One is already filled with curious horror at the prospect of being bombarded by bombastic boasts of their findings. But worse is the painful devil that resides in the details that we will be dumped with via graphs, touch screens and sundry other fooling tools wielded in all seriousness by pretentious men and women in latest attire, that will keep changing through the day, whether the poll trends change or not.

But my nightmare is the panel of experts, all usual suspects, who will be showering on us their unsolicited pearls of wisdom. Armed with facts and figures that are doomed to be fictionalised right before our eyes and primed by days of preparation precisely for this D-Day, these experts will dissect the mind and mood of the voter with such precision that the voting voter himself is not aware of. We get to know thyself from them.

The flat panel TV will be divided into almost pixel-sized boxes to accommodate these prized pundits. From each of this window, screams will emanate jointly and severally, except during commercial breaks. It is this tribe that converts news into noise with abundant help from anchors, who ironically, cut loose their own vocal chords and sometimes even jump off their pedestals and run toward a screen. But the ultimate and unkindest cuts are these: ‘We got it right’; ‘we broke it first’; ‘you saw it first here’. Really, we are almost made to believe that the new Parli was actually formed in Primetime.

Not to be left out are the political parties. They have learnt by experience not to rely on untrustworthy opinion polls by media or pollsters. They therefore commission their own preferred agencies to come up with even more untrustworthy and you bet, favourable predictions. Reason why almost every registered political party and its leader is convinced that it and by logic, he or she, will lead the next government. Aah why not, there are always the precedents of Charan Singhs, Chandrasekhars, Gowdas and Gujrals to go by.

Small wonder, there is hectic activity in all the aforesaid camps. The third, fourth, fifth, federal, and the n’th fronts are all floating thick and fast in thin air. We have a wannabe Southern Front and an equally nonsensical Front of Northern netas. I, as a scribe, can tell you upfront that I have a special place in my heart for these affronts. Indeed, an NDA complete sweep or an UPA surprise uprise will he a huge dampener. After the prolonged poll process, a painful wait and the imminent media exit-poll barrage, what we really need is some fun. And nothing like this array of assorted strays, all political animals of varying breeds trying to find a common camouflage.

Now, don’t mistake me. That was not my exit poll, but just some sadistic wishful kiteflying. I tell you readers, there is only one opinion poll that you can truly rely on.

And that will be out on 23 May!

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Jawahar T R