2019 LS elections: Exit polls harbinger of actual results, say experts

Chennai: The seven phase high-pitched battle for Parliament ended Sunday and the action shifted to media rooms from polling booths immediately. Major exit polls predicted a comfortable majority for the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Celebrations have already started in BJP camp while Congress has outrightly denied the predictions by pollsters. Almost all television channels went hammer and tongs with colourful graphs depicting the rise and fall of parties besides discussing in detail the way the war was fought this elections.

Interestingly, almost all exit polls predicted a sweep for NDA with a few claiming individual majority for BJP. The poll of polls, an aggregate of exit polls, gives the BJP-led NDA 302 of 543 seats and the Congress and its allies 122.

Narratives like ‘NaMo is back, Nation trusts Modi, Modi 2.0’ have started to trend in social media. However the acid test is not only for the political parties to see what the real outcome is but also for these pollsters on every television channel, who predicted the results. The verdict on exit polls will be out Thursday.

How credible are these predictions? A real tough question to answer. Many are divided on the first place over whether an exit poll is must. They claim the media has made it a sensational affair targeting TRP.

Speaking to News Today, Dr Alexander, a political science professor, says, “It is a science to know what the outcome would be. It may not be precise but only a probability. Though it is generally believed that many people don’t tell pollsters the truth as to whom they voted, yet they take into account various other factors before arriving at a conclusion. Samples are generally huge in India. I won’t sweep aside the exit poll predictions, but wont trust them fully either.”

Citing the recent Australian election, he says, “Over 56 exit polls predicted a wash out for ruling Conservative Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. But he made a miraculous comeback in the general election defying predictions and devastating the opposition Labour Party.”

Though opposition leaders have rubbished the exit polls, National Conference chief Omar Abdullah’s tweet that did not cast doubts on them is likely to be seen as a harbinger of the actual results.

Exit polls, which are believed to be a decent indicator of the overall trend, had been off the mark a few times in the past. In 2004 and 2009, however, pollsters were not as successful in predicting the winner. The Vajpayee government called for an early election in 2004 and exit polls forecast a return of the NDA government with over 250. Sadly NDA finished with just 189 seats and UPA, with 222 seats formed the government with support from the Left parties.

However, their predictions turned right in Assembly polls in five States from April-May 2016. They were largely accurate about the results of Assam (BJP) Assam, Kerala (Left Democratic Front), Puducherry and West Bengal (Trinamool).

As expected TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu tweeted, “Time and again exit polls have failed to catch the people’s pulse. Exit polls have proved to be incorrect and far from ground reality in many instances….” So was TMC chief Mamata Bannerjee.

A political war is now being fought the exit polls. “Over eight exit polls predicted a BJP sweep cannot be taken lightly. Not all can go wrong. Wait for three more days to see what actually unfolds,” says political enthusiast Kannan.

The verdict will be out 23 May. If all goes well, let’s get ready to hear, “We got it first. The numbers on our board turned true” from formally dressed anchors in TV channels. Till then relax and enjoy.

M BHARAT KUMAR