Instead of banning opinion polls, the Election Commission can consider restricting their mode and the timing of the results’ publication. The credibility of an opinion poll or survey is largely dependent on the sample size and selection. India being a large country with heterogeneous sections, it is difficult to draw precise conclusions. In countries with smaller and more homogeneous population, opinion polls can be more accurate.
Elections are conducted in a staggered manner and the counting of votes is kept pending until the elections are completed in all the States. This is because the results in one State can influence the voting pattern in another State. How, then, can opinion polls which are only predictions be presented in the name of true public opinion? This does not mean they should be banned. Opinion polls can be allowed but results should be announced only after voters exercise their franchise.
Opinion polls do influence voter behaviour. They have a huge impact on those who have a narrow circle of awareness and depend only on a few television channels and local newspapers for information and opinion. How many TV channels and newspapers work in an unbiased manner today? Many of them are owned by political parties. I support the view that opinion polls should be banned.
Instead of conducting opinion polls and publishing their findings, the media and other organisations should disseminate information on candidates who have a clean record. Rather than boast about how their opinion polls predicted the outcome of an election correctly, they should take comfort from helping the masses make the right choice.
Yashaswi M. Gundi,
When political parties spend crores on electioneering — conducting meetings and giving advertisements asking people to vote for their candidates — what is wrong in publishing opinion polls which may or may not sway public opinion? Voters should not be deprived of any poll-related news. Our democracy will become a mockery if such curbs are imposed by the Election Commission.
The first opinion poll was conducted in 1824 in the U.S. Since then, the exercise has been regularly conducted in all mature democracies across the world. Opinion polls disseminate information and help voters make a critical evaluation of contestants. At a time when there is need for greater transparency, the banning of opinion polls would be a retrograde step. A ban will not only curb the freedom of speech but also curtail people’s right to information. Political parties advocating a ban should remember that they can shoot the messenger, not the message.