New Delhi: As the bitterly-fought seven-phased Lok Sabha elections came to a close on Sunday evening, barring a few all the major exit polls predicted a comfortable majority for the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
According to the News18-IPSOS Exit Poll predictions, the NDA is set to win 336 seats, while the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) could win 82 seats and 124 seats would go to ‘Other’.
Along with the News18-IPSOS Poll, India Today/Axis My India, Times Now/VMR, Republic TV/Jan ki Baat, and News24 Chanakya also predicted an over 300-seat majority for the NDA. Other polls such as Republic TV/C-Voter and News Nation predicted a less than 300-seats simple majority whereas ABP/AC Nielson and Neta App showed that the NDA may fall short of the magic figure of 272.
But exit polls, which are believed to be a decent indicator of the overall trend, have been off the mark a few times in the past. News18 takes a look at the exit polls in the last five Lok Sabha elections to understand how often these predictions have held their ground.
The two exit polls that more or less guessed the correct winner and estimated the number of seats were for the 1998 and 2014 election. In 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA formed the government at the Centre, the most conservative estimate for the NDA in was done by India Today/CSDS at 214, whereas DRS predicted it to win 249 seats. The same for the UPA was in the range of 149-164. Eventually, NDA bagged 252 seats and UPA ended up with 166.
Similarly, almost every exit poll predicted a simple majority for the NDA in 2014, which finally emerged victorious on 336 seats.
In 2004 and 2009, however, pollsters were not as successful in predicting the winner. When the Vajpayee government, confident of its ‘India Shining’ narrative, called for an early election in 2004, exit polls forecast a return of the NDA government with seats estimates hovering over 250 in most cases. On the other hand, most pollsters predicted a tally of below 200 for the UPA. However, all the exit polls ended up being extremely off-the-mark as the NDA finished with just 189 seats and UPA, with 222 seats formed the government with support from the Left parties.
In 2009 again, most exit polls predicted a close fight between the NDA and the incumbent UPA. However, the UPA returned with a better tally of 262 seats, while the NDA was reduced to 159 seats.
In 1999, though the predictions got it wrong in terms of seats, they did predict in the right direction of NDA getting a clear majority.
Exit polls are expected to be a bit more accurate when it comes to forecasting the state assembly elections. Given the relative homogeneity of voters in a state compared with those across the country in a Lok Sabha election, exit poll results are assumed to be closer to the actual figure. However, that may not always be the case.
For instance, in the recently held state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram, most predicted a clear majority for the Congress in MP and Rajasthan, and a close fight between the BJP and the Congress in Chhattisgarh.
But it was a completely opposite scenario when the final results came in. The Congress just managed to stay ahead of the BJP in MP and couldn’t even cross the majority mark in Rajasthan on its own. Instead, in Chhattisgarh, where it was supposed to be in a close contest with the saffron party, the grand old party swept the state with 68 seats.
So, while exit polls may give us a picture of the overall results and obviously cannot be straightaway discarded, they too are prone to getting it wrong sometimes.