Are Opinion Polls Accurate?

Pre-election polls conducted by TV channels and newspapers are interesting because they are never accurate – they are unscientifically conducted, often months before the election and are designed to be opinion makers, not opinion takers…They are conducted to sway voters especially the undecided ones…

For polls to be accurate, the sample should be selected accurately and randomly because all surveys are based on probability sampling… A randomly selected, small percent of a population of people can represent the attitudes, opinions, or projected behavior of the entire population if the sample is selected correctly…But unfortunately with media sponsored surveys, this does not happen…There are many biases…For example, polls are usually conducted by telephone and so people without phones – the majority of Indians – are automatically left out of the sample…Then there is a bias if the interviewee doesn’t answer the phone the first time…Ideally, the pollster should try a few times but realistically, it doesn’t happen…The questions too are often not objective but leading and biased in favour of the pollster’s own political views…The weightage of the sample size is another issue…One of the tricks used is to decrease the weightage of one group to increase the influence of another…Another trick is to decrease the weight of respondants who the pollster thinks are least likely to vote…This manipulation means a respondant who is most likely to vote can be counted twice and a respondant who is least likely to vote can not be counted at all…If polls were scientifically conducted, there wouldn’t be so much variation between them…

I am surprised when people are enthused by these media sponsored opinion polls…I would take polls conducted by genuinely independent bodies, who state the methodology used clearly, more seriously…The worst thing about media polls is that they serve very little useful purpose…They try to influence people to vote tactically rather than for who they want…

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