There are two opinions about opinion polls. One is that they cannot predict the outcome of the elections. Other is that they can predict the results. There are many examples of opinion polls proving right and many more instances of going wrong altogether. The theory of probability is so much simplified here to say yes or no, right or wrong , head or tail etc when there are only two serious contenders in a bipolar contest.
It was considered that this election should be very hard to predict since both the opposing alliances were evenly balanced. This time the people may not cast their votes based on election manifesto since both alliances promise almost equal freebies and have similar agenda.
Usually the percentage of votes obtained by the parties in the previous elections form a strong basis for predictions. The calculations have to be adjusted for the recent changes in the alliances. For example in Tamil nadu all the other parties shift their alliances with the major regional parties DMK and AIADMK and therefore projections can be made by recalculation of addition and subtraction in each alliance. The following table shows two projections. A projection based on the percentage of votes polled for each party in Assembly election 2006 favours AIADMK. Another projection based on the percentage of votes polled for each party in Parliament election 2009 favours DMK.
The AIADMK camp have calculated 45.28% votes for their alliance leaving only 40.49% to DMK based on the addition of percentage votes the parties got in 2006 assembly elections.
The DMK camp on the other hand are confident based on their share of 49% of votes leaving only 35.20% to AIADMK based on the addition of percentage votes the parties got in 2009 parliament elections. Unless people had acquired a positive opinion about the schemes implemented by DMK government from 2006 to 2009 this increase in their vote percentage was impossible that too when the Srilankan Tamil problem was on its peak. We have to determine on how much percentage of votes will get reduced in DMK alliance vote after 2009 due to 2G Scam and price rise.
Dr S Rajanayagam, Director, ‘People Studies’, Loyola College Chennai who has conducted successful prediction in previous elections has found out that 2G spectrum scam has remained a non-issue when compared to the local problems such as drinking water shortage, power crisis and price rise dominating this election. In contrast most of the opinion polls conducted by mainstream national media have put the 2G scam on top. That reflects on the methodology adopted by the surveying agencies.
One of the earliest Opinion polls for this election was conducted by the Outlook –MDRA. This was conducted among 626 persons in 5 metros , Chennai, Salem, Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai. The results indicated 54% support for AIADMK alliance. This opinion poll cannot be taken for accurate prediction since the sample size was too small and the survey was conducted too early in February in urban areas only even before the conclusion of clear alliances with all partners
A less popular LensOnNews.com has predicted AIADMK alliance will get 47% of votes winning 144 seats in the 234-member assembly with AIADMK alone counting for 100 seats. The DMK alliance will get 46% of votes winning 88 seats. It is said that the poll was conducted among a representative cross-sectional sample of nearly 3,000 voters in 12 carefully selected constituencies in the first week of March.
Headlines today – ORG have projected their predictions based on 2009 Lok Sabha elections and opinion poll on the issues of corruption, administration, killing of Indian fishermen and price rise. According to this method ADMK alliance will get 50 per cent of the vote share winning 164 seats and DMK alliance will get 45 per cent winning 68 seats only. Their conclusion is that 2G spectrum is a major set back to DMK. This was published on 31’st March and the size of the sample for Tamil Nadu in their survey is not known. The survey covered 14,000 respondents in 121 constituencies across the four States.
In India there is no neutral media and the media men are known to manufacture the opinion. The opinion polls always have a hidden opinion of the media men since they prepare the questionnaire for surveys in such a way to suit their wishful thinking.
The opinion polls conducted by regional media predict opposite results in this election.
The Kumudam reporter a Tamil biweekly magazine has assessed 48.60 % support for AIADMK alliance and 41.70 % support for DMK alliance. This survey has concluded that 57% people consider price rise as an important problem when compared to 15% for 2G spectrum issue. This appears to be right.
But according to the Reporter survey only 24% people wish for the return of Karunanithi as Chief Minister compared to 60% support to Jayalalithaa and 15% support for Stalin. This shows that the survey has manipulated to some extend by splitting DMK support between Karunanithi and Stalin and favouring AIADMK by providing no consideration for Vijayakanth to be the Chief Minister. Moreover this survey has unrealistically concluded that the Government servants have forgotten the activities of Jayalalitha against them in evoking TESMA, ESMA in her previous tenure. According to their findings 69% of Government servants support Jayalalithaa and only 36% of them support Karunanithi. What is more intriguing is that Reporter says that 56% of Muslims support Jayalalithaa and only 29 % Muslims support Karunanithi. It is unlikely that Muslims can forget Jayalalithaa’s pro Hindutwa acts of supporting Ram temple movement and hosting feast to Narendra Modi. These factors lead to us to believe that this survey can be concluded as a pro AIADMK exercise. However the Reporter magazine claim this to be a mega survey taken from 60000 people.
A relatively new magazine Puthiya thalaimurai has published a survey taken with AC Neiilson, This survey reveals 49% wishing to vote for AIADMK alliance and 46% for DMK alliance. But at the same time both Karunanithi and Jayalalithaa got 43% support to become Chief Minister. Another 4% were for Vijayakanth. The publishers have admitted that the survey was conducted before conclusion of alliances and the onset of campaign, therefore the percentages are subject to change. This survey was conducted among 5000 voters in the first week of March.
Nakkeeran another Tamil biweekly magazine considered a pro DMK media has assessed 45.50 % support and 146 seats for DMK alliance and 40.50 % support and 80 seats for AIADMK alliance. In 8 constituencies it can go either way.
Nakkeeran survey shows only one or two percentage difference between two alliances in many constituencies leaving the reader to wonder whether there could be a space for manipulation in this wafer thin margin. This survey concluded that the 67% of Government servants and 58% of the minorities support DMK alliance. Nakkeeran magazine also claim this to be a mega survey taken from 100000 people belonging to all walks of life from different age groups in all the 234 constituencies. This survey was conducted in the second week of March and they also have not indicated for a discount for MDMK and manifesto effect.
One of the independent survey groups “ People studies” Loyola college Chennai conducted a survey in the last week of March. This survey finds 48.60 % support AIADMK alliance and 41.70 % support for DMK alliance. But the number of seats cannot be predicted so easily based on the percentage. Only 105 seats can be a sure winner for AIADMK and 70 seats for DMK. The remaining 59 seats can go either way. Significantly this study points out that the stance of MDMK may change the equations and 2G scam is insignificant entirely differentiating the mood of electorate predicted by national media. This survey covered 3171 respondents in 117 of the 234 constituencies
To understand more about the opinion polls we can go back and see whether the opinion polls in the previous elections worked well. It may be recalled that the Hindu newspaper conducted a opinion poll in the assembly elections 2006 and predicted Jayalalitha getting more support percentage over Karunanithi in the first leg of election campaign which was completely reversed in the last leg of election campaign. DMK won the elections.
The local magazine Kumudam Reporter too predicted a victory for AIADMK in 2006 assembly elections which went wrong. The Nakkeeran predicted a victory for DMK in 2006 which was accurate. That does not mean that the same can be taken granted this time.
The results of majority of the opinion polls in 2011 favour AIADMK front. These opinion polls are taken well in advance due to the restriction of the Election commission. The behavior of sway votes may tilt the balance in the last minute particularly in a situation like this when the opposing fronts are divided only by a small margin. It happened in the last assembly elections. There are reasons to believe that it may happen now also.
The latest issue of Junior Vikatan has highlighted in cover page on the result of opinion poll conducted by a private agency predicting 100 seats for AIADMK and 70 seats for DMK. The vikatan publication earlier highlighted in the cover page of Anantha vikatan about AIADMK getting majority. Thus it is clear that the media has scaled down the numbers for AIADMK as the election date is nearing.
The Tamil Nadu BJP leader has said that the activities of Vijayakanth may make the results of opinion polls wrong. He was drawing a reference to the incident in which Vijayakanth was alleged to have beat his own candidate in front of the public. In another incident Vijayakanth was seen asking to remove the AIADMK flag from his meeting venue. There was no combined campaign in the AIADMK front. The MDMK cadres who were insulted and shown the door in AIADMK alliance are said to work for DMK now.
P. Chidambaram who worked wonders in his campaign in the last assembly election has started to speak now attracting neutral voters. He speaks on positive vote collection based on the performance of state and central Governments in bringing various schemes and spending more central funds in Tamil nadu. He believes that DMK will recapture the power just like the Congress party recapturing the central Government in 2009. He brushes aside the vote percentage calculations and says it is not the mathematics but the dynamics which can bring results.
Above all the DMK leader has now started to seek a vote of gratitude from the voters who benefited from subsidized rice, Free Television and stove, housing schemes and land assignment schemes etc. The AIADMK leader is heavily depending on 2G Scam, Family politics etc instead of highlighting more on price rise. The AIADMK has no strategy to convert the opinion in to votes.
The DMK Chief M.Karunanidhi has alleged that the opposition parties have laid a conspiracy to reduce the confidence of the people over the DMK alliance by publishing the manipulated opinion polls. He questions the correctness of the surveys since in the 2009 parliament elections the media predicted that DMK would not get even 2 seats. He has stated further that the opinion polls are published by getting money from the opposition parties and he will name those persons who earned money by this way after elections.
After analyzing all these what could be our conclusion?
If the AIADMK wins then it will be a victory for AIADMK. If the DMK wins it will be a defeat not for AIADMK but for the Media.