The curious case of ABP News & Gujarat poll
This time ABP News did something extraordinary. The day after airing its own survey, ABP News aired the diametrically different opinion poll findings of the Sahara-CNX opinion poll on Gujarat election
In my fairly long stint on the Election Desk of various media houses including TV channels, during which I was involved in the coverage of three general elections and three assembly elections in each state during this period, I have never seen a media house air or publish surveys conducted by others. Not at least those media houses which conduct their own surveys, exit polls etc. What most media houses do, however, is to put up all the findings by different surveys on the day of the counting. This is done to compare the findings with the actual results. But this time ABP News did something extraordinary. The day after airing its own survey done by CSDS-Lokniti in Gujarat, ABP News aired the diametrically different opinion poll findings of the Sahara-CNX opinion poll on Gujarat election.
This raised eyebrows because while the CSDS-Lokniti survey projected a tie in vote share at 43% each between BJP and the Congress, the Sahara survey credited Congress with 41% vote share but predicted 52 seats for the party, around 30 fewer than projected by ABP News.
Similarly, Sahara projected 128 seats for BJP, around 33-35 more than projected by ABP News. ABP News is rated second among Hindi news channels in terms of viewership. In contrast, Sahara News channel is ranked 10th or 11th. Why would the second most popular channel air the survey done by the 11th ? Nor was it just a casual report. It was in fact an elaborate affair , a long programme complete with graphics and with the full involvement of the agency involved in the survey for Sahara. While viewers may not have given it a second thought, the unusual conduct of ABP News suggested that the channel succumbed to pressure and was either pressurised to air the findings of a rival channel or were lured to do it—a first in the history of Indian news channels. Opinion Polls from Gujarat: As pointed out by Yogendra Yadav, CSDS-Lokniti survey done in August, 2017 had shown a clear lead for the BJP, which was expected to secure 59% of the votes and Congress just 29%. The remaining 12% were distributed among others. ABP News had then projected between 144 and 152 seats for the BJP.
Congress, it predicted, would bag between 26 to 32 seats. The next survey findings from Gujarat by CSDS-Lokniti were declared in the last week of October, 2017. This time the survey showed a decline in BJP’s vote share from 59% to 47%. The drop in 12% vote share of the BJP seemed to have given rise to a corresponding 12% rise in the vote share of the Congress. In October, ABP News projected 113 to 121 seats for the BJP and between 58 and 64 seats for the Congress. A month later, in the last week of November, CSDS-Lokniti released its updated findings and projected an equal vote share for BJP and the Congress, both of which were likely to poll 43% votes, the findings held. While projecting the number of seats, however, ABP News ( not CSDS-Lokniti , which does not project seats) forecast between 91 and 99 seats for the BJP and between 78 and 86 seats for the Congress.