An exit poll is a survey by a psephologist of voters exiting polling booths after casting their votes. They analyse these data using computer based sophisticated stastical models to make their projections.
No doubt, it’s a complicated exercise. But selections of samples and calculations of swing and turnout etc always include a margin of error and thus result in different projections by different pollsters.
Exit polls, therefore, give just a broad trend and a sense of direction as to where the mood of the nation or the state is heading. There are also instances where exit polls predictions turned out to be wrong.
In order not to influence polling in any way, Election Commission had barred media organisations in 2014 from displaying the exit poll results until the counting of votes, but the same was withdrawn. Now television networks and media agencies are allowed to release or publicise exit poll results after the last vote is counted.
But political activities heat up in the run-up to the day of actual results. There is a gap of two or three days between exit polls results and actual results. This period is crucial, when the losing party starts casting aspersions on the exit polls results and start taking positions before the actual counting
They will try to find out excuses for their possible loss by blaming the other party for committing frauds, hacking EVMs and other election rigging and malpractices. Even Election Commission is not spared by the losing party.
The irony is that in a state, where a party is shown winning, the party concerned will say that it’s the win of democracy, but where they are shown losing, the same party will say that the other party has resorted to machinations. The blame game goes on even after the announcement of election results, but in case of exit polls, it starts from that day itself.
For the recently concluded elections, there were 16 exit polls conducted by various agencies and TV networks. The most unfortunate part is that even exit polls are now being sponsored by various political parties just to create a hype in their favour that puts a big question mark on their authenticity and accuracy.
The basic purpose of an election exit poll is to collect demographic data about voters, as the votes are cast anonymously. I think the Election Commission should discuss the issue threadbare with all the political parties that the exit polls should be used only for academic purposes, after declaration of the actual results.