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Assembly Election 2017: Exit polls to begin 9 March, but how accurate are the predictions?

The high-pitched Assembly elections conclude on Wednesday with last phase polling underway in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. With the polling concluding in all five states — Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh — research organisations will start churning out results based on assessment of public opinion by questioning a representative sample, especially as the basis for forecasting the results of voting, also known as exit polls.

Political commentators and experts have already started predicting (for example a BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh or an AAP victory in Punjab). But how accurate are exit polls in the first place? While the exit polls data is relevant and does often indicate the mood in a state, there have been times when exit polls got it horribly wrong.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Here is a look at the accuracy of exit polls in the recent polls held before this year:

Among the five states which had gone to polls in April-May 2016, exit polls had mostly been accurate about West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.

In West Bengal, India Today had predicted a landslide victory for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) with 243 seats, way beyond the 148 seats needed for majority in the state Assembly. Chanakya had predicted 210 seats for TMC while C-Voter had given the party 167 seats. In the end, TMC won by 211 seats, which gave it the predicted landslide victory.

The exit polls had also given a correct overall picture of Assam as most polls had predicted a BJP victory in Assam, where Tarun Gogoi-led Congress had ruled for 15 years. India Today had predicted 79-93 seats for BJP, ABP had given the party 81 seats and Chanakya had predicted 90 seats for the saffron party. After counting, BJP won in Assam with 86 seats, comfortably crossing the 64-seat number needed for majority.

Exit polls had also correctly predicted anti-incumbency in Kerala, as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) defeated the incumbent United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala. CVoter had predicted 78 seats for LDF while India Today had given it 94 seats. LDF eventually won 91 seats in the 140-seat Kerala Assembly. Exit polls had also accurately predicted victory for the Congress-DMK alliance in Puducherry.

However, the state in which exit polls had got it horribly wrong was Tamil Nadu. Most exit polls had predicted a defeat for the ruling AIADMK in the state which, till then, had a consistent trend of anti-incumbency. The News Nation TV exit poll gave 95-99 seats in the 234-member assembly to the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK and 114-118 to the DMK-Congress alliance. The Axis-My India exit poll predicted 124-140 seats to the DMK-Congress alliance, 89-110 to the AIADMK, 0-3 to the BJP and 4-8 to others, IANS had reported.

But AIADMK returned to power as it won 136 seats in the 234-seat Tamil Nadu Assembly.

This was not, however, the first time that exit polls had been extremely incorrect in predicting the results in a state election.

After the Bihar Assembly election in October-November 2015, most exit polls had predicted a close fight between the grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress, and NDA led by BJP. The ABP-Nielsen poll had predicted 130 seats for the JD(U)-led alliance against 108 for NDA. Polls on Times Now in association with C-Voter had predicted 122 seats in a house of 243 to the grand alliance while News X had predicted 130 to 140 seats for it. The two channels gave the BJP-led alliance 111 and 90 to 100 seats respectively.

But the grand alliance had a landslide victory in Bihar as it won 178 seats in a 243-seat Assembly.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Mar 08, 2017 14:34 PM

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