Media surveys turn elections into festival of predictions

The most recent survey, released on Thursday by Nakkeeran magazine, predicted 133 seats for the DMK-Congress alliance.

Chennai: It’s election time and so, it’s also the time for opinion polls. Almost every media house has attempted a peek into the minds of the people and come out claiming it has unraveled the mystery of the May 16 verdict. And the readers of the newspapers and magazines, not to mention the eyes glued to the idiot boxes, have lapped them all up. Never mind that one ‘expert poll’ swings wildly off the other.

The most recent survey, released on Thursday by Nakkeeran magazine, predicted 133 seats for the DMK-Congress alliance and gave just on 75 seats to the rival AIADMK, out of the total 234 in the state Assembly. Just three days earlier, Puthiya Thalaimurai TV channel aired out 164 seats for the AIADMK and 66 for the DMK. There was a spectacular finding earlier at the other end of the poll spectrum as the News7 Tamil-Dinamalar survey said the DMK would get 141 seats and the AIADMK 87.

“People read all these surveys with great interest. They watch the TV shows that have these opinion polls and the consequent hot debates. It’s an addiction and it has been growing over the years”, says noted psychiatrist Dr S Nambi.

The ‘growing’ addiction does not reflect the falling credibility of these surveys. Quite many of the surveys have been wildly off the mark when the final poll results came and some others were widely accused of being bought over by influential political players to cause favourable public opinion before the elections.

“Lot of money is spent on these surveys. There are two main reasons for such spending; one is to increase circulation of the paper or the viewership of the TV channel and the other is to promote public support for a chosen leader or party. Some surveys may opt for ‘honesty’ and stay clear of pushing a political agenda”, says Ms Lakshmi Sathyamoorthy, a social sciences researcher.

But has this flood of high-stakes surveys turned the elections into some sort of festival or carnival of wild colours? "There seems to be celebrification of the democratic process of election. The focus is political leaders just like film stars, rather than on policies and programmes," says Pratham Sagar, a JNU scholar. "people who already support a party or leader would lap up the survey that declares that party/leader the winner while rubbishing the other surveys as being dishonest and doctored. It's like Salman Khan's fans getting emotional when the court pronounced him guilty".

In the 2014 Parliament elections, most of the opinion/exit polls had gone wrong. None in Tamil Nadu came close to predicting that Ms Jayalalithaa's AIADMK would win so comfortably but in the end, she scored 37 out of 39. The survey had then given five seats to the DMDK-BJP-PMK alliance whereas the BJP won two seats, the PMK one and the DMDK none.

Even at the national level, the situation is no better. Barring the lesser known 'Today's Chanakya', all the TV channels had got their wires all mixed up. The maximum that a poll had given to the BJP-led NDA was around 290 seats while the coalition emerged victorious with over 340 seats and the BJP alone getting 282, a clear majority in a House of 543.

In the 2011 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, no channel or newspaper had predicted that the AIADMK would score a landslide win. For example, a survey by Tamil magazine Junior Vikatan said the AIADMK alliance would get 141 seats and the DMK 92 seats, while Headlines Today-ORG poll gave 164 to the AIADMK and 68 seats to the DMK. The Nakkeeran survey predicted that the DMK would win 146 seats and the AIADMK a mere 80. In the end, the AIADMK combine got 203.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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