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What are exit polls, and what rules govern them in India?

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act


Source: IE

 Direction: As exit polls are always in news in India, the article discusses all aspects of exit polls – meaning, regulatory backing, significance, and criticism.


Context: Exit polls for the Gujarat elections are now available, as the results of exit polls for a specific election are not permitted to be published until the last vote has been cast.


About exit polls:

  • Meaning: An exit poll asks voters (surveys can be conducted face to face or online) which political party they are supporting after they have cast their votes in an election.
  • History: In 1957, during the 2nd Lok Sabha elections, the Indian Institute of Public Opinion conducted such a poll.
  • Conducted by: A number of organisations, often in tie-ups with media organisations.
  • How does it differ from an opinion poll? Unlike exit polls, which are post-voting polls/surveys, opinion polls are held before the elections.


Rules governing exit polls:

  • In 1998, the Election Commission of India (ECI) issued guidelines under Article 324 of the Constitution, restricting media from publishing results of opinion and exit polls during a prohibited period.
  • In 1999, the SC stated that in the absence of a statutory sanction, the ECI cannot impose any guidelines prohibiting such polls.
  • The inclusion of Section 126(A) in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, in 2010 imposed restrictions only on exit polls.
    • Section 126(A): No person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise its results through the print or electronic media, during such period as the ECI may notify in this regard.
    • Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to 2 years/ a fine/ both.
  • Currently, exit polls can be telecast only after the conclusion of the last phase of the election


Common parameters for a good/accurate exit poll:

  • Large and diverse sample size.
  • A clearly constructed questionnaire with no bias.


Significance of exit polls: Gives an indication of –

  • Who might secure the maximum votes
  • The issues, personalities and loyalties that have influenced voters


Criticism of exit polls:

  • Political parties often allege that these polls are motivated or financed by a rival party.
  • The results can be influenced by the choice, wording, timing of the questions and by the nature of the sample drawn.


Insta Links: Exit polls


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Q. Differentiate between an opinion poll and an exit poll. Do you think these polls can impact free and fair elections by affecting voting patterns? Critically comment. (250 words)