New Delhi: India’s political parties have called for a ban on exit polls ahead of general elections in April and May. This means exit polls will not be made public till the last phase of the election is over. What’s the justification? Well, political parties say that exit polls influence voting behavior especially in a country like India where elections are held in phases.
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But is this really the case? Yashwant Deshmukh is a psephologist, and voices what he and many of his colleagues think about the ban: “It has been said by the government that the exit polls have gone wrong a few times and then they have said that they continue to influence the voters. Both of these statements are contradictory at the very first place, because if they could really influence voters, they can never go wrong.”
This is not to say that exit polls cannot go wrong – most psephologists agree that it happens sometimes. However, they believe that curbing exit polls would give unreliable sources more of a thrust when it comes to making projections about elections.
Mint columnist G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, says, “In the absence of something called exit polls, which are certainly more scientific than the projections made by the market pundits, I think things are likely to go haywire. All sorts of rumors would spread. Gossip would go around, and it could confound the voters much more than the genuinely conducted exit polls.” .
For psephologists, banning exit polls entirely seems to be an ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ scenario. Especially since the government has failed to provide a more scientific alternative.