The failure of most exit polls to make an accurate prediction about the Bihar Assembly elections has put a question mark on the efficiency and reliability of such an exercise.
None of the pollsters suggested a landslide for the Grand Alliance of Janata Dal United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress. Most of the polls picked the wrong winner. One of them (NDTV), which had the largest sample of 76,000 people from all 243 constituencies, too, did not give the right picture. The CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) showed a lead for the Grand Alliance, but did not make a seat forecast.
According to Pankaj Prasoon, director of CIPRA (Centre for Indian Political Research and Analysis), most of the surveys are motivated. “I think these are sponsored and meant to appease their mentors. In the case of Bihar, everybody was talking about Nitish Kumar, but these surveys indicated something else,” he said.
Prasoon said there should be more transparency in the method of survey.
However, Yogendra Yadav, a well-known psephologist and a former Aam Admi Party leader, said India’s track record in election forecasting is not very poor. “Polls, especially exit polls, mostly pick the right winner and give us a valuable sense of the current public mood,” he said. Yadav, however, said that scientific opinion polls are a must in a democracy, adding field reporting cannot substitute it.