Exit Polls 2024: Times When Exit Polls Have Gone Wrong In Predicting Election Results In India

Exit Polls 2024: Times When Exit Polls Have Gone Wrong In Predicting Election Results In India

As much as agencies undertaking exit polls would like to believe that they capture "the mood of the nation" and given all their claims at accuracy, the exit polls over the years have got it wrong on multiple occasions. History proves that exit polls have more often than not fallen short of predicting the much awaited "results" ahead of the actual outcome. However, it remains a fascinating task.

Abhishek YadavUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2024, 01:12 AM IST
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File image of people waiting in a queue to vote showing their voter IDs |

As voting for Lok Sabha Elections 2024 will come to an end on June 1 and polling for seven phases conclude on Saturday, all eyes will be on the exit polls that will start giving in their projections soon after voting is completed. Exit polls, which have now become an important exercise undertaken by research agencies in partnership with or commissioned by news channels, are almost as eagerly awaited as the result day.

Exit polls also claim to better represent the mood of the voters than opinion polls. This is because exit polls involves interviewing a voter right after the respondent has voted. It is important to note that exit polls involve a detailed questionnaire that can help arrive at near accurate outcome. However, with changing times and increasing competition, the methodology is comprised at times.

Also, as much as exit polls claim to capture the mood of the nation and given all their claims at accuracy, the exit polls over the years have also gone wrong at times. In fact, given the intrinsic unpredictability of sample size method and other factors, exit polls have more often than not fallen short.

Though exit polls go back to 1957 (second general elections), their prominence and presence grew with the advent of private TV news channels in India in 1990s.

Times When Exit Polls Got It Wrong

2004 Lok Sabha Elections

Though the exit polls got it right in 1998 and 1999, correctly announcing a majority for the BJP led NDA, almost all the exit polls got it wrong in 2004, when the Congress emerged as the single largest party and formed the government along with (then) UPA partners. Almost all leading exit poll agencies had predicted anywhere between 250-280 seats for the BJP led NDA coalition. However, that figure fell well short as the NDA parties led by BJP managed 189 seats.

2009 Lok Sabha Elections

Not as far off the mark as 2004, the exit poll agencies and channels underestimated the Congress led UPA in 2009, perhaps on the grounds of anti-incumbancy. While the agencies predicted anywhere near 190 seats for the Congress led UPA, the results were surprising and the UPA returned to power with 262 seats.

2014 Lok Sabha Elections

While all the agencies predicted a BJP led NDA majority in the 2014 elections, the seats were projected anywhere between 270-290 mark tally. However, the NDA did even better and won 336 seats, exceeding all projections and predictions. One important exception here is Chanakya, that was closest with its estimate of the BJP led NDA winning 340 seats.

Apart from the Lok Sabha Elections, exit polls also got several assembly election results wrong. One will immediately recall the assembly elections in the state of Punjab in 2022 when the exit polls predicted a Congress win or a tough fight between Congress and AAP. However, the AAP stormed to power in Punjab, to the amazement of all exit poll agencies, barring a few.

Take the Chhattisgarh assemmbly elections in 2023, when almost all exit polls claimed that Congress was coming back to power in the state. Instead, the BJP won a comfortable majority in Chhattisgarh, proving the exit polls wrong by some margin and distance.

Criticism Of Exit Polls

Often, exit polls are criticised for the lack of transparency in the methodology adopted by various agencies. Critics of exit polls also claim that several agencies undertaking the exercise have "hidden agendas" that render the exit polls meaningless as the numbers are based on pre-conceived notion. It is also a fact that most of these allegations are levelled by the parties shown to be at a disadvantage at the exit polls.

Having said that, exit polls have made a name of themselves and finds an important place in modern day electoral politics in India. One interesting update ahead of the 2024 exit polls is that the Congress announced on Friday (May 31) that it would not be sending any of its spokespersons or representative for the exit poll debates or discussions on the channel.

"Our statement on the party's decision not to participate in the upcoming exit poll debates: Voters have cast their votes and the voting results have been locked in the machines. The results will be out on June 4. In the eyes of the Indian National Congress, there is no justification in participating in the TRP game by making any kind of public speculation before the results are announced. The purpose of any debate is to enlighten the audience. The Congress Party will gladly participate in debates again from June 4," posted Pawan Khera, Chairman, Media & Publicity Deptt of Congress party.

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