The Indian experience with the art and science of predicting poll outcomes with the help of exit and opinion polls remains a mixed one.
While poll surveys have got election results correctly, on several occasions there have been major misses to remind the public to take the predictions with a pinch of salt.
It is an occupational hazard as inferences are drawn on the basis of representative samples.
The biggest miss exit polls business had was in the 2004 elections when every pollster picked Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its favourite and eventually got it dismally wrong.
Likewise, the 2009 election was another failure when the exit polls suggested an even fight between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and challenger National Democratic Alliance (NDA). There are many more such examples when exit and opinion polls have gone wrong in predicting state assembly results.
In 2014, all surveys had largely predicted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would improve its seat tally, bettering its previous best of 182 seats in 1998 and 199. The difference was in hitting the bulls-eye: predicting the number of seats BJP and its alliance partners would win.
The CNN-IBN — CSDS — Lokniti exit polls gave 276 seats to the NDA, predicting a simple majority for the alliance. The exit poll predicted 97 seats for the UPA and gave 148 seats to others.
The India Today — Cicero gave 272 seats to the NDA, 115 to the Congress-led UPA and 156 to other political parties.
News 24 — Chanakya gave 340 to the NDA, 70 to UPA and 133 to other parties and turned out to be the most near-accurate. As it turned out, the NDA won 336 seats, while the Congress-led UPA was reduced to less than 70 seats.
Times Now — ORG predicted 249 seats for the NDA, 148 for UPA and gave 146 to other political parties.
ABP News — Nielsen gave the NDA 274 seats, 97 to UPA and 165 to others. India TV — CVoter gave 289 seats to BJP-led NDA, 101 to the UPA and 148 to others.
NDTV-Hansa Research predicted 279 seats for the NDA and 103 for the Congress-led UPA.
Riding the Narendra Modi wave, the BJP won an unprecedented 282 seats on its own, marking the end of a succession of coalition governments since 1989. The Congress managed to win a mere 44 seats in its worst performance ever.
The BJP-led NDA won 336 seats with the saffron party sweeping all seats in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Goa. Moreover, it won 71 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress won 34 out of 42 seats, the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK emerged as the third largest party in the Lok Sabha, winning a staggering 37 out of 39 constituencies.
While Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won 20 out of 21 seats, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) secured 11 seats.