Opinion Polls Deserve Scrutiny

By Sunil Dang

Whenever a prestigious poll comes in Indian polity, we come across huge number of opinion polls. These opinion polls are such in numbers that it becomes a regular feature on various media platforms. However, what makes me write here about the opinion polls, is its varied degree of wrong conclusions. From psephologist’s point of view, opinion polls are part and parcel of a statutory study, which indicates public sentiment and their opinion about a particular government or poll. But, in actual, it has become a part of poll campaign of various political parties and media houses are providing their platform to the parties that have vested interest in it.

Generally, the institution that conducts opinion poll claims about variation of 5 percent in their conclusion. However, it has been found that their predictions are far from the ground reality because poll results are almost opposite of what they have been claiming in recent opinion polls. For example, in Delhi assembly polls in 2015, majority of the opinion polls were indicating about the close fight between BJP and AAP. Some of them gave around 35-45 seats to the BJP. However, when the results were announced, it won mere 3 seats. Same was the case in Bihar assembly polls where majority of the opinion polls gave 100 plus seats to NDA. When such variance occurs, it not only puts a question mark over the technical correctness of the exercise, it puts question mark over the honesty of such opinion polls because such huge variance can’t take place if the exercise is within the frame limit of the psephologists.

Failure of opinion polls in recent times have put question mark over the neutral nature of the media houses too. The way opinion polls are bombarded over estimating a particular party and under estimating some particular parties, it looks that opinion polls have become part of poll campaign of various political parties. Hence, it’s high time for the Election Commission to take cognizance the way it took against the Exit Polls. If opinion polls are aimed at influencing the floater voters, it has to be banned the way election commission banned the exit polls till elections are over. The election commission can bar media houses and various institutions to share opinion polls during model poll conduct. It would help conducting free and fair elections.

One more angle that must be addressed while condemning the opinion polls and its engine-bogie system with political parties and media houses, it shows an element of doubt falling under the paid news net. The election commission has been promising to contain paid news during elections and it took help of media professional at press council of India who can work as watch dogs on behalf of elections commission. However, it seems that political parties have found other way through opinion polls to advertise their lead in coming elections and influence voters. As it takes huge money involvement in conducting an opinion poll, we can easily estimate the amount invested by political parties to rig the opinion poll via illegal practices during elections. If the election commission bans opinion polls during model code of conduct is announced, it would help the commission to contain money power in the elections and provide level playing field to other contenders of the elections. Since, election commission is committed to contain paid news during elections, it’s high time for the commission to follow the route it found while banning the exit polls few years ago and take some strong action to ban rigged opinion polls that are maligning the festival of democracy through invasion of unfair money power.

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