What's Your Opinion on Opinion Polls

There seems to be a myriad of opinions regarding opinion polls nowadays

DQW Bureau
New Update

There seems to be a myriad of opinions regarding opinion polls nowadays. The Congress wants it banned, BJP is ambiguous about it, Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party is using it as a campaign tool, while other political parties are swinging one way or the other. Looks like everyone wants it happen or banned depending on their convenience-Congress does not like it because most of them show them in a downward slide everywhere while BJP too is not an undisputed winner everywhere. No one seems to give a damn to the efforts that go behind in an opinion poll especially in a heterogeneous society like ours.

That diverse population in a complex demography like India is not very friendly towards opinion polls or surveys is evident to us from the different surveys that we conduct within the channel fraternity every year. The Channel Satisfaction Survey we conduct across 19 cities always brings these issues and end up not pleasing many. I can empathize with the pollsters since I too feel aggrieved when many of the dissatisfied vendors seem unwilling (either due to ignorance or deliberately) not understand the complexities of such surveys or polls.

Most important thing I would like to advice is for everyone to go in details through the methodology. That in most cases should sort out most of the misgivings. We religiously follow this and I am sure most of the reputed opinion polls (there are one or two fly-by-night exceptions or someone deliberately manipulating for other gains) also do so. Therefore, my request to the political parties as also to the vendor or the partners is to understand the methodology in detail.

Next before you throw out the baby with the bathwater, please understand the sample sizing can be a certain finite number only. Yes, even in a vastly populated country like India, it would impossibly tax even the biggest agencies logistically to track samples that are proportionate to the population. But, what I can assure is every agency worth its salt selects its sample keeping in mind the complicated heterogeneity that exists in India. It is never a random sample picked up at someone's whims and fancies, but one that uses and applies all modern statistical tools incorporating the sociological demographics at the same time.

Also most importantly, all worthwhile surveys clearly mention the error rate that can occur. No one claims to be a Nostradamus; neither do they show this error rate as a buffer against future discrepancies. Rather it is a quantifiable measure arrived after most exacting scientific calculations and normally it leads to a more accurate prediction as far the trends are concerned.

End of the day any crystal ball gazing (scientific or otherwise) is fraught with difficulties, but that should not mean outright condemnation or rejection of well meaning surveys or opinion polls. The political parties might be carrying their own agendas in doing so, but I sincerely hope the vendors or partners would desist from such actions. Please write to me on what you feel abut surveys and opinion polls.