CHENNAI: THE field is splintered and pollsters are having a field day. After setting new records on the number of total candidates, women contestants, electors and even unaccounted money seized, there is another record that this Assembly elections is set to touch – the numerous opinion polls that curiously lack any semblance of unity in their findings.

There are opinion polls that have given the AIADMK the edge, while there are some others that predicted that the DMK would return to power. Even those predicting victory for the same party vary wildly in the number of seats they are expecting to win.

Not surprisingly, those parties that have been shown in a poor light by these polls have condemned the sample surveys strongly, terming them as doctored efforts to impose their opinions on the people.

“Opinion polls are an undesirable and unhealthy practice, as they create confusion in the minds of voters,” former Chief Election Commissioner Krishnamurthy told Express. However, “the law does not ban it”, he said, recalling an instance in the past when the commission tried to ban it but was overruled by the Supreme Court.

Echoing him, for chief electoral officer of Tamil Nadu, Naresh Gupta, too rubbished opinion polls that often base their findings on small sample size. “Opinion polls are unethical, since it has a psychological impact on the voters. There is no need for an opinion poll because elections are the biggest opinion poll,” Gupta opined. There were reports that even the media could be influenced on opinion polls, he said, noting how such exercises in the past failed to predict it correctly.

“It all depends on whether the survey is done in a scientific manner. There are so many parameters and variable factors that have to be taken into consideration, and even after doing a sincere survey, you still cannot claim that it will be accurate,” pointed out IIT Madras faculty Sudarshan Padmanabhan, also the coordinator of Tamil Nadu Election Watch (Association of Democratic Reforms).

Padmanabhan highlighted the example of noted broadcaster and psephologist, Prannoy Roy of NDTV, whose team did a massive survey ahead of Bihar Assembly election involving 2.50 lakh people but still went wrong. “He publicly apologised for it,” he said.

Citing another example, he said that in 2009 when the AIADMK was predicted to win 23 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats, but ended up winning only nine.

Diametrically opposite view

There are opinion polls that have given AIADMK the edge, while there are others that said  DMK will return to power. Even those predicting victory for the same party vary wildly in the number of seats.

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