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Should opinion polls be banned?

Could opinion polls in the Indian elections unfairly influence the voting outcome? Should they be withdrawn?

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Vote:
Should opinion polls be banned in the Indian elections?
Yes No

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

The Indian Supreme Court has had to step in to settle a row between the media and the country's highest election body.

The Election Commission - an independent body - had banned the broadcast or publication of exit polls from the first two rounds of voting.

The commission feared that with the election spread over a month, polls from the intial rounds of voting could have an influence on people who hadn't already voted.

But India's media organisations were incensed - and argued that this amounted to an infringement of free speech. They also said the commission was exceeding its powers.

The poll ban has now been withdrawn, but will Indian democracy now suffer as a plethora of polls is published? The commission pointed out that in most other democracies, polls are banned on voting day.

Or is the commission at fault by exceeding its powers - especially given that it is an unelected body?

And are opinion polls - particularly if they have a wide margin of error - of any value anyway? Tell us what you think.

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Don't see any valid reason in banning polls. For heavens' sake, more than half the population don't even understand what they are. So I don't see how people are going to be mislead (and we are talking about the majority of the voters here).
Mousumi , India/UK

Media in India are generally government-favouring. They lack fairness. They lack purposeful analysis. Indian media simply seek predictable consequences in favour of BJP using their pre-planned opinion poll results.
Hussain Jamirul, India

Opinion polls amidst rural population will increase the voter awareness of their responsibility and the importance of their exercise in a democratic set-up.
Jsetlur, Australia

People do not cast their vote on the basis of opinion polls. They cast their vote according to the Party's performance and their election manifesto. The news agencies have a right to bring news to the public when it is happening; and people have the right to know it. It is the fundamental principle in a democratic process.
Khema R. Sharma, USA

It is very nice of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India to have taken the wind out of the Election Commission by passing this ordinance that it will not have any effect on the voters preferences and that they will not be influenced by the opinion polls. It will increase the enthusiasm of the voters to come forward in numbers and vote for the right candidates and not for any particular party.
Ravinder Kapur, India

This is not "a Chicken and Egg" question. But I do believe in one mantra: The public opinion is fragmentary, contradictory, volatile, based as much on myth as on reality, and difficult to interpret with any degree of certainty. I wish the people of India "Great success in a Nut-shell"!
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

If there is one country where opinion polls should be banned, then it is India. India, where the elections are staggered, misuse of opinion polls to bribe voters, candidates and election officials is real. Corruption as it is rules supreme in India. Why give it another impetus.

Ban opinion polls? Great idea. While we're at it, we could also ban newspapers, television, political discussions in the pub and any free speech whatsoever. In fact, just to be sure that elections aren't influenced in any way, we could ban them as well and have an unelected dictator. After all, if you ignore the tricky issues of famine and human rights abuses, it works pretty well for North Korea.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

The public should be denied any information that might be available by law. It's for people to decide how to take that information. I would rather like to make a known judgement based on information at hand then making one with without latest information.
Shekhar Kumar, India

Less than 30 % of India's population have access to media that present these opinion polls. I do not see them effecting voting patterns in any way. At the most some urban voters may be swayed by these opinion polls. I don't see any reason to ban them at all.
Parvez, India

I think polls should be banned mainly because they appear to have a fairy large error margin (about 10%). This suggests that they are not very reliable. They are likely to influence potential voters even though the extent of the influence and the way the voters are influenced may vary a lot. It would be much better NOT to have poll results than having such dubious poll results. As far as the argument of "infringement of speech" by the Indian media is concerned, I don't think the argument is valid because before the media can even make a claim like this they should be able to produce more reliable results. Although I think the fact that the Election commission is not elected is a serious cause of concern because they have a very important responsibility towards ensuring that the elections are free and fair. Having said that I would like to reiterate that they did have a point when they said that "polls from the initial rounds of elections " could influence the people who hadn't already voted.
Vidisha VAIDYA, Australia

This will create an image and the people in the belief of voting for stability may take the wrong choices. Last minute impressions are more powerful in deciding the vote victories.
Vasu, Singapore

I believe it is nice to hear what everyone thinks about an issue -- and, I don't think Indian elections are an exception. This will give everyone a chance to voice his/her opinion/voice/concern in a democratic manner.
Charles Antony, Canada

Why should they be banned? Never. In fact the opinion polls may help a large chunk of Indian voters who decide at the Nth moment - which party to vote for. Also as these days you have so many parties in the fray, opinion polls may help the voter in deciding on his vote by voting for the better party (which most people feel is better), instead of wasting a vote. And the rest of the voters in India are committed voters. They stick to a party once and for all. They can never change their voting pattern by these opinion polls. So we should have more number of authentic opinion polls in the worlds largest democratic country - India.
Sudhakar Parampalli, USA

The Supreme Court has done the right thing by cutting the tail of the election commission monkey. It was hopping too much and has assumed too many powers. It has become undemocratic and possibly harmful to democracy.
Subramaniam, India

The point that the supreme court of India was making in delivering its historic judgement was this - that the election commission does not have the powers wherewithal to muzzle or control the press or other means of free speech in a democracy. Whether opinion polls are valid during an election process or whether the press has the right to publish them, cannot be determined by a non-elected body. In this sense, the judgement was a reminder to the nation and the world of the core tenets of democracy - government of, for, and by THE PEOPLE. In this particular context, this may be translated - LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.
Francis Christian, Canada

What use are of opinion polls or exit polls when their sole purpose is mostly to mislead than to lead. None of these exit polls publicise their modus operandi; how they chose the sample size ,what is the degree of statistical accuracy they plan to achieve , the basis of selection of a particular constituency and the like? There are reputed institutes in India who can if they want to, do a comprehensive exit /opinion poll like the Indian Institutes of management's or the Indian statistical Institute . But unfortunately you find hitherto unknown organisations coming up with polls and in a country like India people rarely ask their credentials. It is a lot easier in India to make any sort of predictions and get way with it . It is this tendency that the election commission opposed and by no means they intend to curtail the freedom of expression.
Biju Vithayathil, India

I am firmly against banning opinion polls. As the words indicate these polls reflect the mood of the people interviewed. In a Democracy, everyone has a right to opine. With regard to timing of these polls and a fear that they might influence the result of the actual polls, it can be safely assumed (for many reasons) that these would not have a biased effect on the electorate. 1) Firstly, any average voter knows actual reality of the political situation (believe me, its true!). So even the so called "fabricated polls" are just that. Also different polls (by different groups) often give contrasting results. So the voter is left to fend for himself. Issues that influence him are mostly religion, personality, caste etc (unfortunately). 2) This reason may sound a raw humour (but credible in states like Bihar), rigging throws all opinion polls to Bin. This reason is double edged one; it can be taken seriously or otherwise. 3) Thirdly, opinion polls with differing results actually throw up a chance among the public to debate the issues. Polls conducted by popular groups often come up with thought provoking questions. So even, everyone cannot be a part of the poll, each voter is aware of the issues facing him which he can dwell at leisure and later cast his poll. Reasons can go on, but it remains a fact that opinion polls have come to stay in India and they cannot be washed away. It is for the survey groups and press to effectively use this to address issues before people.
Dr G Natarajan, USA

No. There should be no interference at all in the affairs of RESPONSIBLE media.
Alok Bahl, India

In national interest of India, it should not. We have seen three hung parliaments. India is a diverse country and issues and preferences vary from region to region. If opinion polls are banned then people who constantly wary of another hung parliament will not get a clear picture of mood of people in other part of the country. Opinion polls may help mood of people and mandate majority for a single party.
Vijay Ojha, India/UK

OP(opinion polls) should be banned, because they naturally affect the next polling stage & since OP can be manipulated by some parties. Here manipulation of OP is quite easy.
Chirag, India

To have a say, a voice is the essence of democracy -- I say, have as many polls as necessary
Deepak Savio FErnandes, India

It should be banned, because it can change the mind of the voter. But at the same time India being a democratic country can not do so.
R.K.Girijashanker, INDIA

Unlike most democracies, Indian elections are conducted in phases (5), spread over a month. With that and limited experience in polling and the complexity of the electorate itself, the exit poll-based forecasts (right or wrong) from one area can not but influence the voting patterns in areas yet-to-vote. With the margin of error expected to be considerable, such forecasts can steer those yet-to-vote long before any one can determine the accuracy of the forecasts. In the US, with 3 time-zones from coast-to-coast, the TV networks (though armed with their poll results) prefer to wait till the polls close in a time zone BEFORE making their predictions for that area (which often turn out to be accurate, even within the point-spread, with a remarkable consistency among various polling agencies). India has NO such experience, and has many complications to boot. India also needs to modernise its election system (introduction of electronic voting is not enough) and, like other world democracies, have general elections on a SINGLE DAY - NATION-WIDE, with stricter party and candidate registration requirements and discarding the system of one candidate running in 2 different constituencies with no residential requirements. "Freedom of press", as a former US Supreme Court Associate Justice (Felix Frankfurter) once remarked, "is not an end in itself but a means to the end of a free society." As a free society, India needs not only a vigorously independent press but one that also respects one the society's most cherished rights: free and fair elections, where the electorate is guided more by its own preferences rather than merely reacting to the unverified information as to how others involved in the same process have already decided. Without accountability or responsibility, freedom of expression can easily work against itself. With discretion, the print and electronic media in India will be able to better serve the public interest. Public also has to demand accountability from its press.
Dr . R. Rahim , USA

No. But on the other hand, why not? After all, so much of what is taken as free speech is banned already in Britain. Why banning opinion polls would make any difference? This is what happens when you have a government that can do whatever it likes with no first amendment to protect you.
Andrew Wright, USA

It shouldn't be, while it is absolutely nation wide survey, people must know what's going on and who is the best to rule India for coming 5 years.

No. I have watched three General elections in India. All that talk about Indian electorate being illiterate and therefore not capable of delivering useful verdict is rubbish. They too enjoy the opinion polls and the antics of their politicians like the rest of the democratic world and they too can read between the lines. Voting apathy is more obvious in the literate section who are more self opinionated and fail to exercise their responsibility and right at the ballot box.
Vinod Dawda, UK

Opinion polls are a constitutional right for freedom of expression. The Indian Election Commission in recent years is assuming rights which it never had. The Supreme Court is right to put it in its proper place.

Just after the elections were announced it suggested that the state governments where elections for the state assemblies are to be held, be dismissed and put under the respective governer's rule. Now we have the gagging of exit polls. The Election Commission should focus on conducting free and fair elections. It is far exceeding its mandate.
D. Angirasa, U.S.A.

If we wanted them to be banned, the what the blazes are we doing here? Opinion polls are a good barometer of where the general public opinion tilts. Some may be surprised but, statistics, with all its probalility theories, is still a very reliable science (maybe the most reliable of all, but that's just me speaking). How can we improve our environment if not with weighing the majority's opinion?

The problem does not lie in opinion polls. It lies with uneducated individuals, be they polititians, lawmakers or journalists, who use polls not to really see what people want and do it, but rather to ascertain what people believe about stupid policies and issues that they intend to push anyway, no matter the people's opinion.

They want to ascertain the cost of their messes, in other words, rather than adjust their future actions accordingly. Well, now they don't want to hear it? Fine! That's exactly what was happening in France in the 1700's.
Ulysses Christodoulou, USA

I believe a ban on opinion polls would be valid and not an infringement of free speech only if this "free speech" can be proven to harm the larger interest of the people. The question then becomes does it harm the democratic process by 'unduly" or "unfairly" influencing voters? An editorial in a leading newspaper in India made the following valid point:

"Most voters decide their vote based on local issues (be it the condition of their roads or other civic amenities), or based on ideology and party loyalties. These people have already committed their votes and are not influenced by exit polls.

Then there are others who are "fence sitters" who are undecided and don't have a strong leaning either way. It is this group of people that are most likely to be influenced by opinion polls.

The question then becomes: Is it better or worse if these people cast their ballots based on opinion polls rather than the completely random votes they would otherwise cast? Or perhaps they would now feel motivated to vote whereas earlier they didn't feel the need to vote."

In this case, I believe that the opinion polls can help the democratic process based on the notion that more information is always better.
Revathy, USA

Whilst I can see the concerns generated by conducting an election over an extended period it seems to me that polls, despite their in-accuracy's are better than rumour and false claim. There are plenty of factors that can affect the outcome over and above opinion polls. The way to safeguard the democratic process is to ensure that the people are as well informed as possible. When a society has free speech with a multiplicity of news outlets people become quite good at reading between the lines. Unfortunately politicians are quite in-secure about this and don't credit the people as much as they should.
Andrew Witham, UK

Opinion polls have a significant advantage. They facilitate discussions such as what is important to a voter and therefore allow important consensus building and intelligence gathering. In a country such as India where a large percentage of population is uneducated, this is a important aspect as it provides the opinion of others than just political parties. The political parties that are against opinion polls are doing so for self-serving purposes as they want a captive audience.
Arun Nagpal, USA

Well it is a democracy and if someone wants to put out an opinion poll let them as long as it is within the law.Contrary to popular belief Indians are savvy enough to cast their votes according to their wishes,at least in most cases.
Mohan Marette, India & USA

Voters are not required to give reasons for their votes. They can be, and in principle are entitled to be, swayed by any reason that they consider pertinent. I would therefore argue that in itself the publication of poll results should not be banned. The position is different if the law, for good reason, prohibits the publication of the results of initial rounds of voting in staggered elections -- in such a case, the publication of results of exit polls would amount to circumventing the law. But in such cases everything must depend on the reason for the ban; for example, the prevention of widespread public disorder may be a sufficient reason but the mere fear that people may be swayed to vote one way or another is not.
Peter, Netherlands

Of course not! I have never heard such balderdash. Let free speech and democracy prevail.
Col. Roger Taylor, UK

As a proud Welshman I know the damage that was done by opinion polls before the referendum on the Welsh Assembly. No good came of that vote and none will come if the Indian people are bombarded by opinion polls either.
Sammy Khan, Wales

I don't think so. First of all, in a country like India where a majority of the voters are either illiterate or educated to a very basic level, opinion polls do little to sway their voting patterns. Indians, even the educated ones, vote with their hearts (which are very closely tied to their wallets usually!) and are not distracted by what they consider to be an interesting but largely academic exercise. I also doubt the veracity of the opinion polls themselves and am not really sure how scientific they are. I don't think opinion polls really matter, except for offering urban upper-middleclass chattering classes yet another topic to gossip about at tea-parties.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

Why should they be banned? India is a democratic country and every citizen have his/her right to express his/her views.
Meher, India

The problem in this case is that one of the members of the commission to ensure the election is safe had taken offence at the editorial slant in the New Delhi Times. He had a point, but banning the polls is not on. As long as the public understand if a poll is biased or not and that it is just that - a poll of people's opinion - then what can be wrong with that. Paper's are just that, personal opinions - by the journalists - of events that have occurred. And while many journalists ensure responsible reporting, many do not, and can't be trusted. The public should be more aware of what value polls have - sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but always it is a guess at best.
Jehovah Mandlebrot, India (US Citizen)

Yes they should be banned. No purpose is served by them.
Jidipiba Singh, India

I feel most passionately about the health of Indian democracy. We are proud peoples and are rightly proud of our democracy. Any attempt to stifle our democratic processes is utterly and totally wrong.
Mahatma Jennings, Poland ( Formerly Kashmir )

It is my opinion that opinion polls are often wrong. Given the violent nature of the Indian elections, anything which may calm will be good.
Austin Spreadbury, Celebes ( Indian Ocean )

Give the fine people of the Indian subcontinent some respect. The citizens of this splendid country are not so foolish as to be swayed by opinion polls. I know, as I served in the forces for a number of years and married a most marvellous Indian gal!
Bob Smith, Hong Kong

I find it unbelievable that you are holding an opinion poll as to whether opinion polls should be banned in the Indian elections. In my opinion ALL opinion polls should be banned as they are nothing more than a forum for the opinionated people who submit their opinions to them!
Brian Cheeseman, UK

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Final vote:


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Yes: <% =percentyes %>% No: <% =percentno %>%

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