Between now and Sunday, when the results come for the Assembly elections to five states, a lot of the analysis will be centred on the exit polls whose data was released Thursday evening. But experience shows that there is no guarantee of accuracy when it comes to exit polls — which are as likely as to be accurate as wildly off the mark.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the averages of the selected exit polls here were off by only a handful of seats in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, but their predictions were inaccurate by a considerable margin for Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
Cong win predicted in Rajasthan, hung Assembly in MP
For Rajasthan, all the major exit polls predicted that the Congress would cross the 100-seat majority mark in the 200-member Assembly. The average of five exit polls put the Congress’s tally at 117. While News Nation was the closest to the party’s actual tally of 100, Republic-CVoter and India Today-Axis My India predicted considerably larger victories for the Congress.
While the average of exit polls put the BJP’s tally at 76 (just short of its actual 73 seats), News Nation predicted a much closer fight, with its prediction of 89-93 seats for the BJP. India Today-Axis My India’s upper bound prediction of 72 was the closest prediction.
However, none of the major polls was able to predict the performance of Independents and minor players like the Bahujan Samaj Party, which won 13 and six seats, respectively.
In Madhya Pradesh, the average of seven major exit polls predicted a narrow BJP win over the Congress, with neither party winning an outright majority in the 230-member Assembly. While only ABP News-CSDS predicted a Congress majority, India Today-Axis My India, Times Now-CNX and India-CNX predicted a BJP majority.
The Congress won 114 seats, just one seat short of a majority and just five seats more than the BJP in 2018. The narrow result was reflected in the exit polls, with four of the seven polls putting the parties within a handful of seats from each other.
Off the mark for Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram
In Telangana, five major exit polls predicted a Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) majority, but failed to predict the scale of its victory. The average of exit polls put the ruling party’s tally at 68, with the BRS going on to eventually win 88 in the 119-member Assembly. The polls also overestimated the Congress’s chances, predicting 39 seats compared to its actual tally of just 19.
India Today-Axis My India and regional surveyor TV9 Telugu-AARA came the closest with their predictions of 79-81 and 75-58 seats for the BRS, respectively. In contrast, News X-Neta and Republic-CVoter predicted a much tighter contest with the Congress winning 46 and 47-59, respectively, in their polls.
In Chhattisgarh, the average of seven exit polls put the BJP and the Congress at 42 seats each, but the result turned out to be a surprisingly comfortable win for the Congress, which won 68 seats to oust the ruling BJP, which managed just 15 seats, in the 90-member Assembly.
India Today-Axis My India had the most accurate prediction for the Congress, but even it overestimated the BJP’s performance. Republic-CVoter was the only other poll to predict a Congress majority. Times Now-CNX, ABP News-CSDS and India TV-CNX had predicted a BJP majority.
In Mizoram, the average of three exit polls gave neither the ruling Congress or its main challenger, the Mizo National Front (MNF), an outright majority. While the upper bands of the predictions from Republic-CVoter and India Today-Axis My India put the MNF at or just above the majority mark in the 40-member Assembly, the party went on to win 27 seats compared to the Congress’s 4.
All three polls overestimated the Congress’s chances, though India Today-Axis My India was accurate in its prediction of 8-12 seats for the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), the party that was formed as a coalition of Independents after polling in 2018. The ZPM went on to win 8 seats.