How are Exit Polls conducted is one question everybody wants to know! Exit polls which till now have fuelled pre-result debates on 24*7 news channels have for the first time come in such spotlight, thanks to this time their unanimous prediction for UP elections, tipping Samajwadi Party as the winner with maximum number of seats. Results by Election commission of India of the Assembly Election in states-UP, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Punjab are due on 6th March.
An Exit poll is media’s way of knowing the outcome of elections, even before results are formally announced. Election Commission of India usually warns against taking such results on their face value. Thus we will know how Exit Polls are conducted in the first place but let us first quote an example when Exit Polls did not turn out to be true- During 2009 General Elections, Exit Polls gave BJP and Congress almost equal number of seats at 156~ but in reality Congress got 205 seats and BJP 116.
We now understand that Exit Polls have their own shortcomings but lets understand how exit polls are done:
News Channels or Print Media hire a specialized agency to conduct Exit Polls for them. These agencies are usually adept at conducting market researches, surveys and other similar statistical tasks. They are ideally conducted when the voter has just exited the poll booth and thus a high chance of him telling his choice as accurately as possible.
Unlike actual polls where all the people vote their choice, in case of exit polls, a definite number of booths across the election turf are selected and surveys are conducted randomly on every Nth person who exits the poll booth. These numbers of booths and people are determined on the basis of accuracy, which is sought, and also on the basis of how large an area it is. One thing to be noted is that Exit Polls work on a piecemeal approach that is, a sample is drawn and findings are generalized on the entire universe that is entire population for which the exit polls are conducted.
Exit Polls are indeed an effective way of countering pre-result anxiety as they offer some insight into the outcomes of the election process but as we can see, exit polls are again a highly statistical exercise and however helpful this field be, truth remains, it is only as accurate as the surveyor would want it to be.