02 December, 2020

The Weather Vane Speaks

Opinion polls may err, but they must stay

AP
The Weather Vane Speaks
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

There’s a puzzle. Opinion polls, which newspapers and TV channels conduct before elections, sometimes get their predictions almost right, sometimes dead wrong, often in between. Many voters, and indeed politicians, eagerly await the outcomes of surveys to suss which way the wind is blowing, but parties for whom they spell doom often raise the spectre of polls being “motivated”. These parties are shrillest in their call for a ban on opinion polls, while those whose prospects app­ear ros­ier beam in the ‘feelgood’ created by such surveys. How does one make sense of the scepticism and the frenzy that seem to go hand in hand?

The loudness of the Congress’s call for a ban is proportional to the scale of opi­nion stacked against it. Whether it would have sought a ban if surveys had veered even remotely in its favour is anybody’s guess. Similarly, there’s no surety how the BJP, now shown as a frontrunner, would have behaved if the popular mood had seemed against it. The Election Commission, in receipt of petitions from...

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