Exit Polls And Opinion Polls, From Right To Know By A Voter To A Mere Political Bait
Post on 11,July 2017   4:12 PM
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FIRs were filed in Uttar Pradesh against the editor of Dainik Jagran and the head of Resource Development International Pvt. Ltd, an agency involved in surveys after they allowed publishing the results of an exit poll online.

But Why: Supreme Court in PUCL case (2013) acknowledged the importance of free and fair elections and alleged that the opinion polls as well as the exit polls hinder the conduct of free and fair elections. Present scenario of business oriented media has further augmented the influence resistance to such polls.

What is Opinion poll and Exit poll?

Opinion Poll: An opinion poll is a pre- election survey to gather voters’ views on a range of election-related issues. Results of any opinion poll or any other poll survey in any electronic media is prohibited during the period 48 hours straight, including the hour fixed for conclusion of voting in each of the phases in connection with the elections.

Exit poll: An exit poll is a post- election survey conducted immediately after people have voted. Its results cannot be published till half an hour after the last round of elections is over. It covers even other states when polls are being held in more than one. For example In 2017 state elections in Punjab, Goa, UP, Uttarakhand and Manipur, exit poll results cannot be published till voting for the current round of elections in these five states ends.

Significance of these polls: Opinion and Exit polls are useful to gain insight and know an overall pattern into what people think of the policies and programmes of the government

Polls also help people get aware about their rights. It helps the voters decide better thus enhancing our democracy with true essence.

Why this was criticized: Proposal to ban Exit polls is considered to be a move against freedom of speech and expression as Voters also have a fundamental right to information and media through exit and opinion polls.

Also as the media is business oriented it can often be easily manipulated by the politicians and hence the opinion and exit polls can be politically motivated fluctuating the choice of the voter ambiguously and deceptively.

Legal scenario: In 1998 Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls, Election commission introduced guideline under Article 324: While carrying the results of exit and opinion polls, newspapers and channels shall disclose: Details of polling methodology, Margin of error and sample size of electorate.

But In 1999, guidelines were challenged by media and a Constitutional Bench said that ECI cannot enforce guidelines in the absence of statutory sanction. Therefore ECI took them down.

In 2004 ECI gave recommendation to amend the Representation of the People Act 1951 to ban both exit and opinion polls during a period as specified.

In 2010, restrictions were imposed only on exit polls through the introduction of Section 126(A) in the Representation of People Act 1951.

Various constitutional provisions related to AG include: Article 76 mentions about Attorney Genera; as the highest legal officer in the country.

Article 88 mentions about rights of AG with respect to the Houses of Parliament and its Committees, which includes:

He has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament and their joint sittings and any committee of Parliament of which he may be a member.

He does not have the right to vote in the Parliament.

Article 105 defines that powers, privileges and immunities of AG are similar to Member of Parliament.

Concluding Remark: United States, opinion polls and its publication is an integral part of free speech in elections whereas almost sixteen European Union countries ban reporting of opinion polls 1 to 24 hours before polling. The only restriction is to not report likely outcomes from exit polls before voting. An independent regulator could be set up standards of professional integrity for all poll research and accredit the agencies better scrutiny. The regulator can also be empowered to setup standards on parameters of survey like sample size, sampling methodology, timeframe, quality of training of research staff memebrs.


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