AA Edit | Needless drama over exit polls

Information is not seen as a threat to the integrity of the poll, or an undue influence.

In a democracy, the Fourth Estate exists and has a profound primary duty of informing citizens, because it is held that when people rule themselves, they would take the best decisions to govern themselves only if they are well informed. Today, most of this sense of governance of the people and by the people has been reduced to voting.

Most democracies have been largely reduced to functional electoral systems, and the integrity of the polls are largely questionable given the hypocrisy and systemic failure of the media, their integrity and neutrality being in big doubt, and from there, stems this nearly self-defeating tactic of the highly followed but largely purposeless exit polls.

In most democracies that hold general elections with a large number of voters, the counting begins almost simultaneously or very quickly after the end of the polls. In the United States, counting begins concurrently to the polls and we watch results from New York or other east coast states even as the polling is underway in California.

Information is not seen as a threat to the integrity of the poll, or an undue influence. In India, we ban all opinion polls one day before the elections begin, even if they are long-drawn affairs of weeks, and even months. Exit polls to one state like Chhattisgarh are felt as a potential undue influence in, say, Telangana.

And then, once the elections are over on Thursday, the next day is not for counting, or the next. Hence, the exit polls acquire an element of suspense and drama which, in the age of social media, further gets heightened to melodrama.

In exit polls seen so far in the elections to five states, depending on which data point you choose, the Congress is winning or can form a government in four states, or the BJP is doing the same and, yes, the BRS is winning, losing, or stuck in between.

The truth is that only TV channels and survey agencies win because of the exit polls, while democracy itself is the loser.

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