HT Image
HT Image

Delhi elections: police the pollsters, weed out the dubious

Most pollsters got the Delhi results wrong. none of the exit polls predicted a tantalisingly hung assembly, or that the AAP would be snapping at the BJP’s heels. Ajaz Ashraf writes.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON DEC 29, 2013 11:38 PM IST

The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) robust performance in the Delhi assembly elections should have turned the honchos of polling agencies scarlet, ignominious failures as they were in capturing the mood of the city’s electorate.

But for one pollster, none of the exit polls predicted a tantalisingly hung assembly, or that the AAP would be snapping at the BJP’s heels, or that the Congress would come a shockingly distant third. In their earlier rounds of polls, almost all furnished empirical evidence of the AAP’s campaign gathering momentum, but still lacking the steam to gather more than 20 seats.

Their abject failure assumes tremendous significance against the backdrop of the furious debate that had preceded the publication of these surveys.

Critics, mostly from the Congress, dubbed the polling agencies as opinion-makers, as against their own description of being opinion-seekers, who invoke the term scientific to describe their surveys, but which are, in reality, deeply flawed, or tailored to suit one party or the other, or satisfy the media-owners’ political preference.

Scientific or dubious, opinion polls, even their practitioners agree, can and do influence voters. Indeed, those who have no strong ideological inclination or are not steadfast in their tilt for or against a party tend to cast their votes for one widely expected to be a winner, which is what surveys portray.

This is why critics want them banned. Those who believe opinion polls are fraudulently manufactured ask: are such polls any better than distributing liquor and money to voters to influence them?

However, those opposing a ban claim such surveys inform and assist the voter in judging the competing political parties and decide on his or her vote. A ban, therefore, would violate the fundamental right to free speech.

Yet, it might not be rhetorical to ask: since opinion polls rarely predict exact electoral results, and often go egregiously wrong, are they not misinforming the public, deliberately so in the eyes of some? Isn’t misinformation encouraged because of the protection under the right to free speech?

But view the issue from another perspective. In journalism, a wrong story doesn’t lead to a ban on the publication which featured it. Nevertheless, checks and balances have been introduced — retraction and apology, and threats of defamation suits. Might it not be time to police the pollsters, to weed out the poorly skilled and the dubious?

Perhaps a way out to counter misinformation, deliberate or otherwise, is to insist on pollsters evolving an index of success and publishing it every time they release a new survey.

Such an index should convey the degree to which they were right in predicting past election results, say, over the last 10 years, both in terms of vote-share and projected seat tally. This would provide a sense to voters whether or not they can rely on a given survey on deciding on their vote.

Perhaps the polling agencies should also be asked to emulate psephologist Yogendra Yadav who published the raw data on the AAP website every time the party made public its internal surveys.

The raw data should not only disclose the methodology followed in a survey, the sample-size and its diversity, but also the questionnaire the field-workers took to respondents and their responses, as also the method adopted to numerically grade them. This is vital as poll experts claim it is easy for them to tell whether a given raw data is genuine or not, thus ensuring wannabes don’t venture into the complex business of predicting human behaviour.

Ajaz Ashraf is a Delhi-based journalist

The views expressed by the author are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)

India’s women and the workforce

By Ashwini Deshpande
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:21 PM IST
Women are not dropping out. They are being pushed out by the lack of demand for their labour. There has been movement out of agriculture into informal and casual jobs, where the work is sporadic, and often less than 30 days at a stretch. The new modern sector opportunities, especially in high value-added service sectors, mostly accrue to men.
Close
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

The high-stakes battle in West Bengal 2021

By Shashi Shekhar
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
In West Bengal, one TMC slogan is “Khela Hobe” (game on). The BJP picked it up and ran with it. Now the Congress and Left activists are repeating this. The game is truly on. But it will be just a game if it is stripped of all morality. It becomes a mockery of the people’s aspirations. But that is the way things are going at the moment.
Close
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)

A misplaced idea of honour enables violence against women

By Amita Punj
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:13 PM IST
The prevailing gendered notions of honour remain at variance with the gender-just society that the Constitution seeks to establish. The constitutional principles of non-discrimination and equality are in tune with India’s international obligations as a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Close
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)

Look at number of people dying post-vaccination: Efficacy number that matters

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 07:10 PM IST
People aren’t only worried about dying from Covid; they’re also worried about getting so-called long Covid and transmitting the disease to others even after they’re vaccinated.
Close
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)

For reforms, create a coalition of the willing

By Milan Vaishnav and Jonathan Kay
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:16 PM IST
Instead of big bang measures announced from Delhi, PM Modi should use his stature to create a coalition of like-minded states to pursue economic reforms
Close
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)

The missing women in India’s workforce

By Dipa Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:18 PM IST
Studies have shown that women are willing to be employed, negating the argument that cultural factors keep women from working outside the household
Close
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)

Institutions have failed citizens on sedition

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
In a nutshell, sedition can only apply if there is clear and imminent incitement to violence. Not otherwise. But have our police and various governments recognised this? Or, if they have, do they care?
Close
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)

Can Covid-19 open doors for working women?

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
The Start-up India and Skill India schemes should target women much more aggressively now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose words have proved transformational in many areas, should use his popular radio broadcast, Mann ki Baat, to emphasis the need to get women back into the workforce and make the workplace more conducive to those already in it.
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP