Sunday, February 25, 2024

Experts divided on exit poll ban

Leading political analysts were Thursday divided over the Indian government’s proposal to ban exit polls till all phases of the country’s normally staggering balloting get over.
“There is no basis to ban exit poll results because it does not affect or influence the voter’s behaviour,” said analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao. “Mostly, the exit poll goes wrong in predicting the election’s eventual outcome. This ban, I feel, is an over reaction to a problem and is unwarranted,” Rao told IANS.
With general elections just months away, the government Wednesday moved to ban exit polls on the ground that they tend to unduly sway voters.
The cabinet, at a meeting presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved a proposal to restrict publication and telecast of exit polls till the last phase of balloting ends.
Opinion and exit polls have become increasingly common in the conduct of Indian elections. In state and parliamentary elections that often run into as many as five phases, political parties argue that exit polls at the end of each round ends up influencing those voting in the next phase.
A bill to be introduced in the month-long session of parliament starting Oct 17 would amend the Representation of the People Act to give effect to the proposed ban.
According to Rao, the fact that all political parties are unanimous in favouring the ban is probably an indication that the exit polls put pressure on them.
“Exit polls perhaps put a strain on political parties and demoralise some of them. This could be one reason for the proposal. However, exit polls don’t influence the voters,” he said. “I am pleased that there is no ban on opinion polls.”
However, N. Bhaskara Rao, psephologist and media analyst who pioneered opinion polls in India back in the 1970s, favoured the ban on exit polls.
“Exit polls these days are not transparent. And their prediction often goes awry. For the current scenario therefore, this ban is suitable,” Rao said.
Psephologist Yogendra Yadav agreed and said some kind of regulation was required.
“Exit polls at times are conducted without much maturity and lack transparency,” he said.
He too said that the real reason for the ban could be because the morale of the political parties may be getting affected and not because of the voters’ mood.
Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India today opposed the Cabinet decision to put a ban on publication and telecast of exit polls during the election process, saying it was an assault on the freedom of the press.
‘’Though we admit that the existing methods of conducting exit polls need to be improved, we are against putting any blanket ban on such polls,’’ General Secretary of the Editors Guild K Sachidanand Murthy told UNI.
Exit polls are an important tool in analysing the mood of the voter, he added.
Mr Murthy said there was no doubt that the quality of exit polls should be improved and fool proof methods should be evolved, but to do away completely with the tool would be wrong.
The Editors Guild felt that if the ban came into force, it would be an interference in the functioning of the press, he said.
However, broadcaster Rajat Sharma of IndiaTV welcomed the Government decision, saying that exit polls were never done scientifically and were never accurate, so influenced the voters’ mind in a wrong way.
‘’In fact we have borrowed the idea of such polls from the West where voters were mature and aware. But in our country it was not the case. Moreover, the polls were held in several phases, which allowed vested interests to influence the voters mind for their own end,’’ said Mr Sharma when asked for his reaction.

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