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  • Context (IE): The Lok Sabha Elections 2024 will end on June 1st, after which exit polls will be released.

What are Exit Polls?

  • Exit polls are surveys conducted with voters as they leave a polling station during an election.
  • The purpose is to gather information on how people voted and their demographic characteristics.
  • These polls provide early indications of election results before official results are announced.
  • The Indian Institute of Public Opinion was the first one to conduct an exit poll during the second Lok Sabha elections in 1957.

Limitations of Exit Poll

  • These surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions.
  • Prone to error: It relies on a random sample, may not be the true representative of the electorate.
  • Nonresponse bias: Not all selected voters in the sample genuinely participate and respond.
  • Volatility of Voter behaviour: Last-minute voter sentiment changes can affect predicted election results.
  • Absentee Voters: It does not cover absentee voters, who may vote through postal ballots.

Exit Poll vs. the Opinion Poll

  • Exit polls are conducted immediately after voters have cast their votes.
  • Opinion polls are conducted before the elections take place to estimate the inclination of the voters.

Exit Poll Regulation in India

Need of Regulation

  • Exit polls, if released prematurely, can potentially influence voting behaviour.
  • Accurate and reliable information: It must be regulated to preserve electoral integrity and prevent the dissemination of false and misleading predictions about voting trends.
  • By regulation, stability and confidence in the electoral process are promoted.

RPA, 1951

  • Section 126: It prohibits conducting exit polls and disseminating results via print or electronic media from the start of the first phase until half an hour after the last phase ends.
  • Under Article 324, ECI prohibits the media agencies from publishing or releasing the results of exit polls.
  • The ECI usually imposes a “prohibition period” on publishing or disseminating exit poll results.
  • Punishment: Violators of the directive could face a two-year prison term, a fine, or both.
  • ECI also mandates that media agencies conducting exit polls register with the ECI.

Status of Exit Poll In Other Countries

  • USA: There are no laws in the US to regulate the practice of exit polls. However, the results are not published until the voting is completed.
  • Germany: Exit polls are strictly regulated in Germany. It is considered a crime to release the results of an exit poll before the completion of voting in all polling stations.
  • UK: The publication of exit poll results is not regulated by law, but media outlets refrain from publishing results until voting in all polling stations has ended.
  • Singapore: In Singapore, a complete ban on exit polls has been imposed.
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