What are exit polls and how reliable are their results: All your questions answered

The 2019 Lok Sabha election results will be declared on May 23.

With the long and vitriolic-filled Lok Sabha elections, spanning over seven phases, coming to a close, the embargo on the broadcast of exit polls will be lifted on Sunday evening. The election results will be declared on May 23. Here’s a primer on what exit polls are and how accurate are they.

What are exit polls and how are they conducted?

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken soon after a voter walks out after casting his or her vote. It is considered as an indicator to which party forms the government. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted. Exit polls are conducted by a number of organisations. Read in Tamil, Malayalam and Bangla

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Why are exit polls banned by EC?

Seeking an amendment to the Representation of the People Act to provide for a ban on both exit and opinion polls during a period specified by the Election Commission, the poll watchdog in 2004 had approached the Law Ministry along with the endorsement of six national parties and 18 state parties. The recommendation was accepted in part, and in February 2010, restrictions were imposed only on exit polls through the introduction of Section 126(A) in the Act.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Both exit and opinion polls can be controversial if the agency conducting them is perceived to be biased. As per critics, the projections of these surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn. Political parties often allege that many opinion and exit polls are motivated and sponsored by their rivals, and could have a distorting effect on the choices voters make in a protracted election, rather than simply reflecting public sentiment or views. Click here more election stories

When will the embargo on exit polls be lifted?

The embargo on exit polls will lift on Sunday evening at 6.30 pm after the last phase of Lok Sabha elections concludes.

How reliable are exit polls?

Exit polls have often proved unreliable in India. There have been several instances when they have predicted the verdict of an election incorrectly. In 2004, the exit polls wrongly predicted BJP-led NDA coalition winning again, while in 2009 they underestimated Congress-led UPA’s seat share. However, exit polls conducted by TV channels in 2014 were mostly accurate with BJP securing a majority of its own. Tracking election campaigns of PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Vadra Gandhi share light moments at Kanpur airport.

What does EC advisory say about rules for predicting results?

The Election Commission has advised electronic and print media not to publish or publicise any article or programme related to the dissemination of results of exit polls during the prohibited period.

"The Commission is of the view that prediction of results of elections in any form or manner by way of predictions etc by astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any persons during the prohibited period is violation of the spirit of Section 126A (of the Representation of the People Act) which aims to prevent the electors of constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such predictions about the prospects of the various political parties," the advisory read.

Samajwadi Party National President Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party Supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav at an election campaign rally for Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mayawati and Mulayam shared the same stage for the first time after 1993. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

The commission also reiterated its earlier advisory banning exit polls till the evening of May 19. "Election Commission of India, in exercise of the powers under sub-section(1) of Section 126A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has notified the period between 7.00 A.M. on 11.04.2019 (Thursday) and 6.30 P.M. on 19.05.2019 (Sunday) as the period during which conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicising the result of exit poll by means of the print or electronic media or in any other manner shall be prohibited," the advisory read.