Elections in India: exit polls

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The 2004 Lok Sabha election

March 8, 2022: The Times of India

In 2004, when the confident NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee called early elections, the received wisdom, and the pollsters' opinion, was that they would return to office. None of the exit polls gave the Congress a chance. Everyone knows how that turned out.

The exit polls got it spectacularly wrong in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls when the BJP appeared ascendant with its 'India Shining' campaign. Following victories in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan state elections, Atal Bihari Vajpayee government dissolved the Parliament early, hoping for re-election. The exit polls predicted BJP-led NDA to secure over 240 to 250 seats.

The prevalent debate was whether the half-way mark of 272 would be breached or not. But when the actual results came, the numbers were completely opposite and the Congress and its allies got 216 seats against a projection ranging from 170 to 205. BJP just managed to get 187 seats against the projections of over 240 to 250 seats.

Lok Sabha elections, 2014

Mar 9, 2017, The Times of India

The exit polls after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were unanimous in their verdict that the NDA would get a majority or would get something very close to it. The exit polls also agreed that the BJP would get its highest tally ever — the range varying from a little over 200 to just under 300.

When the actual results were announced, News24-Today's Chanakya's predictions were the closest to the final numbers. The BJP-led NDA won 334 seats while the Congress-led UPA was decimated and reduced to just 60 seats. The BJP took its tally to 282 seats, while the Congress was reduced to mere 45 seats.

The News24-Today's Chanakya had predicted 340 seats for the NDA and 70 seats for the UPA.

The other pollsters were correct with their overall predictions, but no were close to the exact numbers. The Times Now-ORG predicted 257 seats for NDA and 135 for UPA, while the C-Voter-India TV exit poll gave the NDA 289 seats and the UPA 101 seats.

2015-16, State Assembly elections

Mar 9, 2017, The Times of India


Exit poll results for elections held in five states in 2017 will be announced after 5.30pm on Thursday.

They were largely accurate about the results in 2016, where polls were held in 5 states.

For Lok Sabha polls held in 2014, NDA's resounding victory was largely reflected in the exit polls as well.

NEW DELHI: Thanks to electronic voting machines (EVMs), exit polls are becoming the more popular appetizer to the main course that is counting day. And with the hurly burly of the two-month-long campaign ending Wednesday, all eyes are on Thursday evening's exit polls from the five states that held Assembly elections over the past two months - Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.

The assembly elections are being billed as a litmus test for PM Modi as the BJP largely banked on his popularity in its bid for power, especially in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh where it has been out of government for 15 years.

Still, how often are exit polls correct? Turns out, the accuracy of such polls is mixed. Here's a look at some recent election results and whether they matched exit polls' predictions.

Five states held Assembly polls last year from April-May 2016. The exit polls were largely accurate about the results out of Assam (BJP) Assam, Kerala (Left Democratic Front), Puducherry and West Bengal (Trinamool).


However, exit polls in Tamil Nadu turned out to be a big fail, as almost all of them believed that the late former chief minister Jayalalithaa's AIADMK would be thrown out thanks to anti-incumbency. They predicted a win for the DMK-Congress alliance. The Axis-My India exit poll saw the DMK-Congress alliance getting between 120 and 140 seats of the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly. It saw AIADMK getting 90 to 110 seats, IANS reported at the time. The News Nation TV exit poll gave 114-118 seats to the DMK-Congress alliance and 95-99 seats to the AIADMK. Instead, come counting day, the AIADMK returned to power with a whopping 136 seats.


Almost all the exit polls predicted a historic victory for the BJP in Assam. The Congress party's Tarun Gogoi had been chief minister of the state for 15 years, but the BJP had made major inroads thanks to Sarabananda Sonowal. ABP's exit poll said the BJP would win 81 seats, while Chanakya predicted 90 seats for it. Turns out, the BJP won 86 seats in Assam which gave it a nice majority - it needed only 64 for a majority.


In West Bengal, India Today had predicted a landslide victory for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) with 243 seats, way beyond the 148 seats needed for majority in the state Assembly. Chanakya expected 210 seats for the Mamata Banerjee's TMC. C-Voter gave the TNC 167 seats. When the official results came in, the TMC won 211 seats in a landslide victory.


Most exit polls said the incumbent United Democratic Front (UDF) would be done away with, thanks to, well, anti-incumbency, and that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) would win, albeit with a slender majority. CVoter predicted 78 seats for the LDF, which went on to beat estimates and won 91 seats in the 140-seat Kerala Assembly.


This was an easy one for most exit pollsters who accurately predicted a win for the Congress-DMK alliance.

BIHAR 2015

The results of the October-November 2015 Assembly election here were hugely awaited. That's because it was Bihar and because of the 'grand alliance' of Nitish Kumar's JD(U), Lalu Yadav's RJD and the Congress, which was to take on the BJP for a majority in the 243-seat Assembly. The ABP-Nielsen poll said the 'grand alliance' would get 130 seats and the BJP and allies would get 108. Times Now along with C-Voter gave 122 seats to Nitish's 'grand alliance' and 111 to the BJP and allies. Come counting day the result were not nearly as close as the exit polls predicted. Nitish's grand alliance won a landslide victory getting 178 seats.

2017, State Assembly elections

Elections results 2017: How accurate were the exit polls this time?, The Times of India, March 12, 2017

Uttar Pradesh, 2017, exit polls vs results; Elections results 2017: How accurate were the exit polls this time?, The Times of India, March 12, 2017
Uttarakhand, 2017, exit polls vs results; Elections results 2017: How accurate were the exit polls this time?, The Times of India, March 12, 2017


Exit polls from assembly elections in five states had indicate the 'Modi effect' is still in play.

That's because the BJP made impressive gains in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur and held steady in Goa.

NEW DELHI: Most exit polls that predicted a hung Uttar Pradesh assembly and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) winning power in Punjab were proven wrong on Saturday with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) getting over 320 seats in the 403-member UP house, and AAP getting less than 30 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly. Some surveys that had put the Congress and AAP in a neck and neck finish in Punjab were also proven wrong as well as those claiming a similar situation between the BJP and the Congress in Uttarakhand.

Here's a look into how the 'polls on polls' fared during the last Assembly elections in these states:


EXIT POLL: All exit poll for 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections had predicted a hung house in UP, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the largest single party in the state. Without mentioning the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by name, current UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has said that he is open to further alliances.

RESULT: The BJP headed for a stunning victory on Saturday in Uttar Pradesh, won 324 seats in the state. Along with its allies Apna Dal and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), the party is set for a comfortable two-thirds majority in the 403-member legislative assembly. The SP-Congress coalition was ahead in only 54 seats while Mayawati's BSP was a distant third leading only in 19 places.


EXIT POLL: CVoter had predicted a clear majority for Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) on its debut in Punjab. NewsX-MRC and Today's Chanakya have also given AAP the maximum number of seats in the state. While Congress is expected to be a close second, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP alliance scraped just few seats here and there. The SAD-BJP alliance could not procure seats in double digits in any of the regions of Punjab, according to CVoter predictions. AAP is forecast to have performed well throughout. Congress is also expected to have won a sizeable number of seats across the state. Today's Chanakya also forcasts a neck-to-neck fight between AAP and Congress in Punjab, with each of them winning 54 seats.

RESULT: In Punjab, the Congress won 77 seats of the 117 constituencies while the AAP, making a debut in Punjab Assembly polls, was at second position with 20 seats. The ruling SAD was demolished with the party leading in 18.


EXIT POLL: The BJP and the Congress were projected to finish neck and neck with 32 seats each in the 70-member assembly. The difference in vote share of the two main contenders in Uttarakhand was said to be just 0.1 per cent, according to C-Voter exit poll predictions. According to CVoter, Kumaun and the plain area of Uttarakhand voted for Congress over BJP. Garhwal had, although, given 16 votes to BJP as compared to five to Congress. BJP was predicted to get 53 seats and Congress will win 15 seats in Uttarakhand, according to Today's Chanakya exit poll. Others are predicted to win 2 seats.

RESULT: In Uttarakhand, the BJP gained a two-thirds majority, won 57 seats in the 70-member Assembly. Congress was satisfied with only 11 seats. Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost Haridwar (Rural) seat to BJP's Yatishwaranand by over 12,000 votes.


EXIT POLL: According to exit poll results, Congress and BJP were predicted to be neck and neck in Goa while AAP was expected to win 0 to 4 seats on its debut. According to NewsX-MRC projection, BJP would lead with 15 seats while Congress would get just 10 seats. AAP is expected to win 7 seats in the state and Others will win 8 seats. CVoter exit poll projected BJP as the largest party in Goa elections, winning 18 seats. Congress was projected to be winning 15 seats in the state while Others are expected to win 5 seats.

RESULT: The BJP was locked in a close contest in Goa with the Congress, before the latter grabbed 17 seats to the BJP's 13 seats. The saffron party suffered a huge reversal when chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar lost to his Congress rival from Mandrem.


EXIT POLL: According to CVoter, Inner Manipur has its votes divided between BJP and Congress (BJP-14 and Congress-15), while the newly-created districts have voted for BJP and not the ruling Congress - BJP 8 seats and Congress 3 seats. Outer Manipur has also shown an inclination towards BJP with 6 seats while Congress is reduced to 2 seats. CVoter exit poll had projected BJP as the largest party in Manipur elections, winning 28 seats. Congress is projected to be winning 20 seats in the state while Others were expected to win close to 12 seats.

RESULT: The BJP was neck to neck with the Congress in too. In Manipur, the ruling Congress secured 28 while the BJP bagged 21 seats, according to details available for 40 constituencies. Meanwhile, anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila announced that she is quitting electoral politics, barely a few hours after her debut polls ended in a debacle - she managed just 90 votes in her contest against chief minister Ibobi Singh.

2019: Three exit polls almost got the numbers right

May 24, 2019: The Times of India

At least three exit poll results nearly matched the outcome of the 2019 general elections. Exit polls had unanimously projected a return of the Narendra Modi government with National democratic Alliance (NDA) securing a majority, though there were differences on whether Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would cross the halfway mark on its own in the Lok Sabha. There was speculation about the accuracy of the exit poll results with Congress president Rahul Gandhi terming them “fake” and urging party workers to ignore them.

“The next 24 hours are very crucial. Stay alert and vigilant. Don’t be scared. You are fighting for the truth. Don’t be disheartened by the propaganda of fake exit polls. Believe in yourself and Congress. Your hard work will not go to waste. Jai Hind,” Gandhi had tweeted.

The India Today-MyAxis poll had predicted 339-365 seats for BJP and its allies and 77-108 seats for Congress and its partners. Today’s Chanakya had estimated 336-364 for NDA and 86-104 for the Congress and its alliance partners. News18-IPSOS had given 336 to the BJP and allies and 82 to United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

2020: Bihar state conundrum

March 8, 2022: The Times of India

The 2020 Bihar state conundrum:

Many of the exit polls showed the RJD-led coalition as the favourite in Bihar but the BJP-JD(U) combine proved them wrong and again stormed back to power. At least two polling agencies, Axis My India Poll and Today’s Chanakya, aired on television channels after voting predicted a clean win for RJD-led grand alliance. Others showed a tight race, with the Grand Alliance having an edge.

2021: None forecast TMC’s landslide; Chanakya closest

May 3, 2021: The Times of India

None of the exit polls forecast Didi’s landslide

New Delhi:

None of the exit polls had predicted a landslide for Mamata Benerjee-led Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. Today’s Chanakya had predicted the maximum 195 seats for the ruling party, which was much less than the final figure that the TMC touched late on Sunday night. The Election Commission website showed the party heading to a win in 215 seats. Similarly, none of the exit polls predicted BJP’s tally going below 80 seats. Barring Today’s Chanakya, all other polls had projected BJP crossing the 100 mark in the state.

In case of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, all exit polls had projected a comfortable majority for the DMK and the LDF, respectively.

Times Now-CVoter and Republic CNX projections were somewhat close to the actual score that DMK clocked on Sunday. Both had projected DMK to bag a minimum of 160 seats and the Dravidian party was heading towards 153 seats.

In case of Kerala, Today’s Chanakya had projected LDF to bag at least 93 seats and on Sunday, the ruling bloc had as many as 99 seats. In Assam, three exit poll projections were close to the actual result. India Today-Axis, Republic CNX and Today’s Chanakya had predicted the BJP-led alliance to win 61-85 seats. The alliance was set to win 75 seats. 

See also

Elections in India: opinion polls

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