The suggestion that opinion polls influence voting preferences is erroneous. If so, a good number of opinion polls wouldn’t go wrong. A vast number of rural voters have no access to opinion poll results. They vote based on their experience, local needs, social preferences and political interests. The speed and impact of opinion polls in shaping votes are vastly overestimated. Further, these polls gain in accuracy as the election dates draw closer. By that time, voters firm up their choices. Opinion polls serve as a useful guide to political parties rather than voters. What the Election Commission should aim at doing is devising guidelines for conducting opinion polls in a scientific and objective manner.
Whether or not we need opinion polls has become another bone of contention between the ruling party and the opposition. Opinion polls have a few drawbacks which affect their credibility. They can neither be regulated nor validated. The size of the samples, the regions where opinion polls are conducted, and the tone and tenor of questions asked raise many issues. Many sections of the media project tainted candidates as winners, which not only hoodwinks voters but also shapes the opinion of undecided voters.
There is an element of truth in the argument that a ban on opinion polls infringes the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.
But it is well known that people who participate in opinion polls represent neither India nor the State where an election is about to be held. It cannot be assured that it is a majority opinion.