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TRACK RECORD: Exit Polls Haven’t Exactly Been Accurate In 2004, 2009, 2014

Remember when absolutely no one predicted a UPA win in 2004?

While people often seem to put a lot of trust in it, exit polls, at the end of the day they involve a lot of guesswork, and they can be disastrously wrong. Take Australia, for example. Scott Morrison charged to victory on May 18, supposedly defying all odds. And poll pundits in the southern hemisphere were left scratching their heads about how it could all go so wrong. In India too, one only has to look back a decade-and-a-half and see that results can be completely off the mark.

Most opinion polls, surveys and pundits were predicting a virtual walkover for then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA, none could foresee that the ruling coalition, with the Kargil victory under its belt, would walk away with only 180+ seats. None of these surveys even hinted at the possibility that the UPA would emerge victorious with 218 seats, and would go on to govern the country for 10 years.

Even in the years that followed, Lok Sabha exit polls, despite being considerably more accurate than the 2004 ones, did not still manage to prove to be clear cut. Let’s take a look at what the predictions were and how they fared against the results:

Lok Sabha Elections 2004:

Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee speaking at a special session to commorate 200th session of Rajya Sabha in the Centre Hall of Parliament on 11 December, 2003 (Thursday).

NDA 187, Congress+ 219, Others 137

What exit polls predicted:

1. Aaj Tak-ORG MARG: NDA 248, Congress+ 190, Others 105

2. NDTV-Indian Express-AC Nielsen: NDA 230-250, Congress+ 190-205, Others 100-120

3. Star News -CVoter: NDA 263-275, Congress+ 174-186, Others 86-98

4. Zee News Taleem: NDA 249, Congress+ 176, Others 117

5. Sahara-DRS: NDA 263-278, Congress+ 171, Others 92

Lok Sabha Elections 2009:

Dr Manmohan Singh
Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

NDA 159, UPA 262, Others 79

What exit polls predicted:

1. Star News-AC Nielson: NDA 196, UPA 199, Others 136

2. CNN-IBN: NDA 165-185, UPA 185-205, Others 135-165

3. NDTV: NDA 177, UPA 216, Others 150

4. Headlines Today: NDA 180, UPA 191, Others 172

5. News X: NDA 199, UPA 191, Others 152

6. Times Now: NDA 183, UPA 198, Others 162

7. India TV: NDA 189, UPA 195, Others 159

Lok Sabha Elections 2014:

Modi MCC violations
PM Modi giving speech in a rally in Latur, Maharashtra where he asked first-time voters to dedicate their votes to martyrs (Photo: Twitter/@narendramodi)

NDA 336, UPA 59, Others 145

What exit polls predicted:

1. NDTV: NDA 258-300, UPA 91-115, Others 149-173

2. Times-ORG: NDA 249, UPA 148, Others 146

3. CNN IBN-CSDS Lokniti: NDA 270-282, UPA 92-102, Others 159-181

4. India TV-CVoter: NDA 289, UPA 100, Others 153

5. News 24-Chanakya: NDA 340, UPA 70, Others 133

6. ABP News-AC Nielsen: NDA 281, UPA 97, Others 165

Also read:  Why It’s Important to Look Back at 2004 Opinion and Exit Polls

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