Are Opinion Polls Slanted to Suit Media Groups' Liking?In two days, two different opinion polls on Gujarat elections have provided two different results. The first was carried out by Lokniti and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) on behalf of The Telegraph, a Kolkata-based broadsheet of the ABP group. It was the third and concluding part of the commissioned series in which 3655 voters in 200 booths across 50 constituencies were interviewed. This poll showed that the lead which the BJP had in the last round of polling in October had vanished and both the BJP and the Congress were running neck to neck. This poll made sweeping predictions about the loss of BJPs traditional support among the trading community after notebandi and GST. It also predicted that both the BJP and the Congress would get 43% of the votes polled.
By Sunil Garodia
On the other hand, just a day later, the Times Now commissioned poll by Votersmood Research (VMR) gave a completely different picture. This poll was conducted by interviewing 6000 people in 684 booths across all four regions of Gujarat. It showed BJP ahead by 5 percent in vote share at 45% to Congress 40%. It also showed that the party would win between 106 to 111 seats compared to 63 to 73 it predicted for the Congress. Hence, according to this poll, there is a swing of 3% away from the BJP while the Congress gains just 1% compared to 2012. Going through both set of numbers, one gets the feeling of watching the advertisement of the online hotel booking site Trivago which shows two customers getting the same room in the same hotel at different prices. Here, readers get different results for same state and same people polled.
But jokes aside, these two polls do lead one to ask the question whether these polls put out results as per the political affiliation of the commissioning media group. It is well known that the ABP group is strident in its criticism of the Modi government whereas the Times group has more good than bad words to say for the NDA government. While psephology has never been, or does not claim to be, an exact science, there are many ways in which poll results can be made to appear for or against a particular party or candidate. The first, obviously, is to interview more people in areas unsupportive of a party or candidate if you want to show him or it as losing. The other is to load questions in a particular manner to get desired results. There are other, finer, ways that can be used without compromising on professional ethics. It seems all such tricks are being used by channels in India.
Granted that the BJP is facing problems in Gujarat this fact has been recognized by party president Amit Shah too but the situation is not as bad as is being made out by the anti-Modi press. Anti-incumbency is strong, traders are miffed at demonetization and GST and farmers are angry too. On top of that Patels, OBCs and Dalits have their own chests to beat. It remains to be seen whether Hardik Patel gives Congress a cutting edge or makes it lose support among the other castes. Given the strong persona of Narendra Modi, BJP is most likely to retain Gujarat, maybe with a few lesser seats.