OPINION POLL: Should opinion polls be banned?

Vinaasha kaale vipareetha budhdhi,” is a saying which captures the mood of the Congress-led UPA government very well. As it swerves into the final lap of its second term in office, as bad news swirls all around it, as the foreboding gets grimmer with each passing day, the 128-year-old party has turned its eyes, well, on opinion polls.

In a communication to the election commission, a party functionary writes:

“Opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls… our party fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election.”

Random surveys “lack credibility”, and could be “manipulated and manoeuvred” by persons with “vested interest”, is the Congress’ conclusion, which is broadly in line with attorney general Goolam E. Vahanvati‘s legal opinion to the law ministry in which he said a ban on opinion polls would be “constitutionally permissible”.

For a government which has consistently trained its guns on free speech, the latest move is par for the course.

There is no question that many opinion polls are dubious exercises undertaken by fraudulent agencies with little no field presence; sponsors, sample sizes, date of polling, margins of error (all pre-requirements in reporting a poll) are opaque. There is also no doubt that many cash-strapped media houses are happily carrying polls with an eye on the future.

Still, is a ban the only solution? Would the Congress and UPA be in favour of a ban on polls if the Congress was doing well in them? Do polls really influence voters, who chose just the opposite of what opinion polls advised them in 2004 and 2009? Whether dubious or not, does a ban on polls restrict the media’s fundamental freedoms?

Above all, wouldn’t Indian democracy be healthier if a voter is exposed to what his co-citizens are thinking in other parts of the country, rather than being denied access to it?

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24 Responses to “OPINION POLL: Should opinion polls be banned?”

  1. venugopal Says:

    Ban or no ban..its impact is only on Media.

  2. Amrit Sagar Says:

    Better ban polls or ban the Government instead of polls survey

  3. narayana, narayana Says:

    When Congress is cornered, what does it do? Or what has it done in the past? Think back to Indira Gandhi who threatened by the verdict about her election, imposed Emergency. Sonia, who has been chanting the mantras of Indira, may likewise, create a situation that will justify her imposing Emergency, banning polls for five years, impose her daughter as PM and do back-seat driving.
    May seem very unlikely now, but just you wait!

  4. Gaampa Says:

    frigging waste of time…. these opinion polls

  5. dr ramesh Says:

    Great day for Indian democracy. The most important electoral reform India wanted from a long time—- banning of pre poll survey, is being seriously being thought of.
    India being a pediatric democracy, is still evolving, it is not mature enough to digest a BOUGHT OVER PREPOLL SURVEYS. A small regional party or a good independent candidate don’t stand a chance because they do not possess funds to buy over survey agencies. They are being discriminated against,
    This is resulting in increased corruption in politics.

  6. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Good point from Dr. Ramesh. Taking away any trick our politicians use to subvert the election code of conduct is a good thing.

    That said, the article has a point about why the call for the ban at this point likely has dark motives.

    As with most things here; whatever happens, people lose a little.

  7. ani Says:

    WILL THEY BAN ASSEMBLY POLL RESULTS ANNOUNCEMENT ON DEC 8th ???
    BECAUSE IT COULD INFLUENCE VOTERS TO BACK BJP ON FORTHCOMING LOK SABHA ELECTION !!!!

  8. shiv shiv shiv Says:

    Relax people. They will let you go on talking like this for some time, and then, some right time later on, someone will hurriedly appear unannounced in a press conference and express a definitive “no,” as his personal opinion. You know it’s going to turn out this way. So, why get so ruffled by a mere Churumuri poll? Let them enjoy their blog and you enjoy your festive season… Happy Deepawali!

    To Churumuri: Actually, I was looking for that last option but didn’t find it: “How much money has the Congress Party paid you for posing this question?” … Anyway, happy Deepawali to you too!

  9. harkol Says:

    If opinion polls are to be banned for being inaccurate, then govt. should stop doing projections on CAD, Fiscal Deficit, Inflation, growth, as it has got it wrong consistently. In fact, it should even ban budgets as they are nothing but an opinion of some babus & minister as they are never accurate.

    In 2009, our ‘economist’ PM told us that the inflation would be controlled in 100days. It is 4 years now.

    Don’t understand the logic here. Opinion Poll is about ‘opinion’. Which doesn’t have to be accurate!!

    Besides, if the argument is that opinions influence the election results – well that is what they are meant to do!! People need to have information, and opinions of others on subjects they may not entirely understand.

    And if it is the case of EC that opinion polls can cause a ‘herd mentality’ and thus make people vote for the winning candidate, then EC is guilty of not letting the voter form an opinion on the basis of any possible information – including other’s opinions.

    OK, there is one case where political parties may have a case against propaganda through opinion polls – Go to court against those on methodology & facts and try and prove it in court that it was malicious.

    How can opinion poll be more malicious than trying to call your opponent Hitler, Buddhu, Fascist, Pappu and other such names? How can it be more damaging than doing wrongful claims?

  10. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Dr Ramesh
    With your fiery oratory and mindless and groundless arguments, most of your posts can be misconstrued by UPA as pre-poll surveys and opinion-forming posts for JDS. Where do you go then?

  11. D.V. Raghavan Says:

    May be that congress is very certain of the outcome of the poll and
    not willing to see the same well in advance by means of opinion poll.

  12. ERR Says:

    Ban anything that spells trouble. Next they might want to ban onions….

  13. dr ramesh Says:

    Doddi,
    I will try to explain…
    Educated Indians are embarrassingly infamous for 2 attributes,
    a) WINNING HORSE TAIL CATCHING syndrome.
    b) ABUSE ME, BUT IN ENGLISH.
    Bought over pre poll surveys plays on these two weakness of Indians to artificially manufacture an election result. Educated voter thinks why to waste a vote, vote for a winning candidate according to prepoll survey, because pre poll is conducted by English newschannels they think it is Gospel truth.

    Sample quality—– a doctor, a techie, garment factory worker have different voting choice.
    Now survey people go and take opinion of techies because they subscribe to corporate – politician nexus.

  14. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    DB–

    Putin Gowda is good. Suggests tribute mongering. Just as appropriate might be Puttanna Gowda.

  15. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Speaking of opinion polls, I like the option, “Don’t know/can’t say.”

  16. Indscribe Says:

    No need to ban them. Just that they should be seen and heard for fun. Public doesn’t always tell pollsters about the preference and even lie or cleverly dodge question.

  17. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Dr Ramesh

    In your case there is a reverse of the famous axiom: “Opinions are sacred where facts are scarce!”

    Shine on you crazy demented dental diamond!

  18. shiv Says:

    What needs to be banned is fraudulent opinion polls.Best way to regulate it is that those who publish opinion polls should also publicise who their sponsors are, what the sample size,demography,geography,copy of the questionnaire.In other words, full transparency.Current decision of cong(i) can be challenged in court successfully.As for Vahnavati, is there not a serious charge filed against him by Gurudas Gupta of CPI that this guy pocketed huge sum of money in a singapore bank account for some dubious actions in 2g allocation?Looks like Tihar needs to be expanded to accommodate all the crooks from the present government.The cooks in Tihar also need to know how to make chettinad chicken curry and pasta.

  19. shiv Says:

    “Shine on you crazy demented dental diamond!” – Well said mate,,Pink floyd will be proud.But then your sarcasm has been wasted,,this guy is a perfect example of how majority of Indians have become wastrels over a period of 1000 years running so far away from the legacy of perfection,creation/innovation,hardwork,honesty,courage and professionalism

  20. shekar Says:

    Opinion polls have the same impact as the movies. It takes time(almost 5 years) to preapare “a true” opinion poll. But almost every thing is virtual, hardly factual but without a censor board to monitor .
    Sometimes there is a bang for the buck, too. The results “tickle”the grey cells.Let them do what they think is the best, while the voters will alteast come to the polling both to either prove it wrong or right.
    For a different prespective,I wish to see exclusive polls amongst the youth,bollyhood/tollyhood crowd, BPL,physically challenged, the social elite and the “educated” crowd.

  21. DHL Says:

    In the USA, when I was there, there was these Opinion Polls on TV, You had to call the Number appearing on TV to give our Opinion, it would cost$10.00 for a minute of a call, because it some special number[To make Money obviously]. 10% of the people would Poll Dont Know.

  22. Devika Nagpal Says:

    A quirky little video that might just throw perspective!

    churumuri – fee free to share away!

  23. Sanjeeva Says:

    One must be crazy enough to give any credence to the opinion polls, particularly the way and the kind of surveys and polls conducted by our media!

  24. Ankita Srivastava Says:

    This act definitely granted Congress “unwanted” attention and brought out its controlling attitude. I am glad that people saw through it and reacted. – If interested please read my post on the same topic http://tinyurl.com/n8k6lk2

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