General elections 2019: All you need to know about Exit polls

Exit polls gives a broad trend and a sense of direction as to where the mood of the nation is heading.

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Agencies conducting an exit poll follow a range of different procedures or methods.
What are exit polls?
Exit polls are basically a poll or survey of voters exiting polling stations after casting their votes. Exit polls are conducted by numerous organisations which use different methods for the purpose.

How are exit polls conducted?
Agencies conducting an exit poll follow a range of different procedures or methods. One of the most common methods is sampling. These agencies might opt for random or systematic sampling. The random sampling at times can be of an entire electorate and not just of voters outside a booth — covering parameters such as age, sex, caste, region and more.


What does Representation of the People's Act say about exit polls?
Section 126A of the Representation of the People's Act, 1951 clearly states that "No person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise by means of the print or electronic media or disseminate in any other manner, whatsoever, the result of an exit poll during such period as may be notified by the Election Commission in this regard."

Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

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Election Commission advisory on exit polls
Earlier, in late March, the Election Commission had announced that Exit polls can be telecast by agencies, including all websites, only after final phase of polling. The EC said the advisory would include display of any opinion poll and of standard debates, analysis, visuals and sound-bytes, among other things.

It also said news broadcasters must not air any final, formal and definite results "until such results are formally announced by the Election Commission of India, unless such results are carried with clear disclaimer that they are unofficial or incomplete or partial results or projections which should not be taken as final results."

TV, radio channels, cable networks, websites and social media platforms should ensure that the contents of programmes telecast/broadcast/displayed by them during the 48-hour period before the end of polls in each phase "do not contain any material, including views or appeals by participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the prospect" of any particular party or candidate, the EC advisory had maintained.

Are exit polls reliable?

Exit polls gives a broad trend and a sense of direction as to where the mood of the nation is heading. It should also be noted that there have been various instances when exit polls predictions turned out to be wrong.
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An ET article by TK Arun said: "Exit polls are tricky in India. Indians are prudent people. Why would they tell a pollster anything other than what they figure out the pollster wants to hear? Suppose he voted Congress, and says so to the pollster, the BJP wins the election and extracts from pollsters details of all those who said they voted Congress, what mayhem might not follow? Why take the risk? Indians can be rational when the issue at stake is lack of faith as well."
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