Our Take

Exit poll confusion

Exit poll confusion
There is no doubt that one of the exit polls on the Karnataka elections will get it right, but given that various exit polls have managed to predict all possible scenarios short of NOTA winning the election that is statistically the easiest prediction to make after the exit polls came out. Is it therefore time for a pollsters, psephologists and statisticians to band together and form an association that should put together some ground rules for polling? Maybe it is.
Opinion polls are just that - opinions. In election after election across the world, opinion polls have misjudged the public mood, the US Presidential Election and the British vote for Brexit being two of the highest profile examples. Exit polls on the other hand have been far better, in the United States and the United Kingdom, the two founding fathers of modern western-style democracy, exit polls have become a proper art and while they are not correct to the seat, they have been so accurate time after time that television networks have called elections based on exit polls even though at times only half the votes even in highly contested areas have been counted. What is most unique about these exit polls though is that they are done by a coalition of organisations and use some proper statistical methods to do the analysis. This sort of polling is no different from those journalists who reported about the mahaul before the 2014 election and got it so horribly wrong - one even predicted confidently that Narendra Modi would lose in Varanasi.
There should be no confusion about exit polls if done correctly, but on Friday it has been made very evident that exit polling in India is a dark and misunderstood art with little or no scientific or statistical basis. India’s polling companies and television channels that commissioned all these separate polls have embarrassed themselves and it is time that polling - both exit and opinion polls in a vibrant democracy like India follows some simple rules. Because the simple fact is that exit polls have lost whatever little credibility they had.


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