Friday, May 12, 2006

exit poll as election campaign

Exit Poll or Election Campaign?

According to a minister in the outgoing UDF government, fortunes of his front in at least 15 seats in the second and third phase of the Polls have been reversed or negatively influenced by the exit polls done at the first phase, and the wide publicity it got through the media. Though media especially television has been playing a very decisive role in the electioneering process, totally redrawing its contours and transforming its content and style, the results of the exit polls gave it a very different dimension. It was just like announcing the election results in advance! Such exercises very much gel with our times when speculation is part and parcel of our lives, whether it be in the stock market or real life and polity.

It is really unfair on the part of law to have allowed such exit polls to be conducted and its results announced especially in a situation like this where the election process is staggered into three phases. It will definitely have an impact upon the succeeding phases, for according to social analysts a certain percentage of votes go with the winners. Moreover, such celebration of the exit poll results would definitely affect the morale of the campaigners also in a big way. Moreover, in a state like Kerala, the fate of many constituencies is more often decided by a very slender percentage of votes.

But is there a case for banning such exit polls from announcing results in the middle of the election process? Would it be an infringement upon freedom of expression or that of the media? What if such exit polls are cooked up as an electioneering tool? Is there any check on the veracity and methodology of these exit polls? Are they – the media or the agency who sponsor and conduct such polls in anyway accountable to the public? These issues can be overcome only by restricting the announcement of the results to the end of the election process.

Actually, the accuracy of such exit polls can be verified only after the results come in. But by that time it would have become totally pointless. So unless some modalities are worked out on the conduct of exit polls, the very exercise will soon become an absurd affair. For, in the coming elections, every front would come up with an exit poll to show them in a favourable position. In other words, exit polls would become yet another election campaign tool


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