Daily Archives: May 20th, 2019

Balls to the exit polls

There were already two elephants in the room – E for Election Commission and E for EVM. And now there’s the third – the summer to an icecream vendor equivalent ie Exit Polls to TV news channels. Given my marketing and market research credentials, which have more marketing in it than most market research walas and more research creds than most marketing walas, I thought it more timely and prudent to put down my two cents on this whole murky issue of exit polls.

So here goes, bhaiyon and behno.

Let’s go back to the basics. In a country of a billion, even the largest sample of an exit poll is a really small sample with a margin of error wider than the Indian ocean. So what happens here is that immediately after voting (this too is some variable dubious timing) a survey of voters is conducted on a ‘sample’ of voters. There are various methodologies of sampling be it random sampling or systematic sampling but in such a tiny sample it becomes impossible to capture anything accurately unless it is a well defined wave. Now this wave can be either of the anti emergency 1977 kind or of the 1984 death of Indira Gandhi kind. Such waves run so uniformly that exit polls would actually have to try to go wrong. Any lesser wave, like the 2014 one for instance, is beyond the grasp of exit polls. That’s why exit polls went wrong in 2014.

And now this one in 2019, is a tougher cat to bell.

A few more examples.

Take the 2004 elections.

Every exit poll predicted a landslide for the NDA but look what happened. Vajpayee was so confident of victory that after his assembly victories in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, he actually preponed the Lok Sabha elections unlike Modi who waited for the radar obstructing clouds of May. Confident of his nationalist “India Shining” slogan, Vajpayee took great solace in the exit polls that said NDA would get 240 to 250 seats. He poured himself a few extra pegs and recited poetry even in his sleep. But the result was the exact opposite. Yes the exact opposite. NDA got 187 seats and Congress and allies got 216 seats against the predicted 170 seats. To break it up further, the NDTV exit poll then gave NDA 230 to 250 seats and the UPA 190 to 205 seats.

Exit polls continued to blunder along. But significantly in 2014, exit polls gave NDA (not even BJP) 261 to 183 seats and the UPA 110 to 120. But the NDA actually got 336.

Closer now, in 2017, in the UP assembly elections, all exit polls predicted a hung assembly. Yes all of them. But the BJP won over 300 seats. Now here lies the clue to why the polls are showing what they are showing now in UP. Dare any pollster make the same 2017 mistake of UP again. So they are factoring in what may well called factoring the last fuck up. This factoring happens at various levels but fundamentally in methodology and in sampling. But yet again I think the hinterlands of India have been beyond the understanding of city bred market researchers for all kinds of consumer products. And poll researches are far more challenging anyway. Now here again in 2019, UP has 80 seats. So if the exit polls get UP wrong, no way they can get the national number right. Right?

The problem is this. If some stranger asks you who you voted for, you would mostly not answer. Or you would take the name of the party you fear. That my dear countrymen, is the BJP. And if you thought that its only about UP, then think again. Here’s what happened in 2015 Bihar Assembly elections. Most exist polls predicted no clear majority to any alliance. But what happened is that BJP scored a measly 58 seats and the JDU romped home with 178.

But now if you think that UP and Bihar are a different kettle of fish, then consider this. For the Delhi assembly elections most exit polls predicted 26 to 27 seats for the BJP. But what happened? The BJP got 3 miserable seats. And the AAP marched into the assembly with 67.

So here’s a question.

If these very pollsters couldn’t predict the fate of a single city like Delhi, where most of these buggers live, do you really think you should be watching their exit polls about the whole goddamn country.

But here’s a little rider.

Maybe these exit polls are showing the results they are showing to give credence to rigged EVM results? That means if the exit polls can say beforehand what the EVM will say later, then no one will doubt the EVM. Got it?

Or here’s another one.

Are the exit polls and their over zealous media coverage meant to prop up the stock market for the benefit of a few?

Oh hang it. Go to sleep. Let’s wait till 23rd. And then decide, depending on who is in or who is out, whether we want to be good. Or we want to be bad.


Sweet dreams.

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