GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act
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
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)