10 reasons why exit polls in 2019 fail the smell test

On Sunday a polling agency showed total LS seats in Kerala were 18 not 20. Another projected that BJP was winning Anantnag seat in Kashmir. A 3rd one projected Mulayam Yadav losing from Mainpuri

Photo courtesy: Twitter/NewIndianExpress
Photo courtesy: Twitter/NewIndianExpress

Uttam Sengupta

Nine exit polls on Sunday predicted a comfortable return to power by NDA led by Narendra Modi. But while six of them projected NDA bagging between 300 and 350 seats, at least three exit polls on three TV channels (Republic, News X and ABP) were far more conservative and cautious. With the majority halfway mark at 272, they predicted the NDA would win 287 seats, 267 (upgraded within hours to 277) and 242 seats respectively.

In other words, at least one exit poll believes NDA will fall short of the majority, while two others predict they will just scrape through. The majority of the polls, however, suffer from no such inhibition, and they predict a far more comfortable victory by the NDA.

But a cursory and admittedly casual glance at the projections were enough to confuse people. Take the following sample observations:

  • Exit polls show BJP losses in all states except Bengal & Orissa. And still NDA winning comfortably?
  • The gap between the highest and lowest predictions for NDA is nearly 100 seats—and 110 seats for UPA. Unbelievably, “Today’s Chanakya” has the same numbers in 2019 as it did in 2014: NDA 340, UPA 70, Others 133.
  • Axis is claiming BJP is in the fight in Anantnag (Kashmir Valley)
  • Mulayam Singh is about to lose Mainpuri and the BSP will lose Ambedkar Nagar.
  • For Tamil Nadu, Times Now- VMR exit poll says: BJP: 29 Cong: 09 Others: 0-0
  • Axis Odisha Predictions BJP 15-19 BJD 2-6.
  • ABP News projects the ‘Gathbandhan’ of SP-BSP-RLD winning 56 seats in Uttar Pradesh but India Today TV predicts 10 to 16 seats. Obviously, both cannot be correct.
  • Exit polls predict a split verdict by voters in Odisha, voting overwhelmingly in favour of the Biju Janata Dal in the Assembly and equally overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP for the Lok Sabha.
  • Times Now projected a 2.9% vote share for Aam Aadmi Party in Uttarakhand whereas AAP sources say the party had not fielded any candidate in the state.

Not surprisingly, several people on Sunday seemed perplexed and wondered what to make of the exit polls. A few on Twitter were mocking. “Is there any surprise if TV Channels who declared 300 terrorists killed in Balakot are giving 300 seats to BJP!” read one such tweet.

On a more serious note, a tweet questioned what purpose the exit polls were meant to serve. “What is the ultimate aim of these exit polls aired by TV channels today? Simple answer is, BJP doesn’t want opposition parties to form a post poll coalition before May 23 and stake their claim to form the government before it can poach.”

A sarcastic Twitter user pointed out that as many as 59 seats had polling in the last phase on Sunday. And most of the seats had been won by the BJP in 2014. “Pollsters got X Projections today at Noon & converted X% into seats for NDA/UPA. Shared the numbers with partner channels' Data Projection Team & attended TV shows as panelists by 5 pm! A+ for effort?

A Twitter user from Karnataka tweeted, “In the last three hours I've received calls from politicians, analysts , bureaucrats and everyone is shocked about exit poll. Especially Karnataka!! BJP’s own Netas are shocked that party might win 21-25 as per exit polls.”

Another user from Jharkhand tweeted, “Sir I am from Jharkhand, BJP is doing very badly but Exit Polls are giving them 12 ...this is bizzare.”

A user from Uttar Pradesh had this to say: “Flabbergasted with the exit poll UP numbers. Checked out what local TV channels are saying. There is a huge variance from national channels. National Voice has a seat by seat projection and gives 49 for Alliance, 29 for BJP and 4 Congress.”

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Published: 20 May 2019, 10:24 AM