Lok Sabha elections 2019 exit polls out today: How accurate are they?

PM Narendra Modi addressed his first rally in New Delhi during the ongoing election campaign, on Wednesday Photo: Dalip Kumar
When the last phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019 end on Sunday, all eyes will be on exit polls that will be released after voting concludes. The counting of votes, which will begin at 8 am on May 23, is expected to take longer than usual this time around and will reportedly continue well into the night. Till then, the numerous exit polls -- regardless of their accuracy -- will put forward their predictions on whether the Narendra Modi-led BJP government will come back to power or not.  

With the embargo on their broadcast being lifted on Sunday evening, the following exit polls will be announced today: Republic-Jan Ki Baat, Republic-CVoter, Today's Chanakya, ABP-CSDS, News18–IPSOS, India Today-Axis, Times Now-CNX, and NewsX-Neta. Here's everything you need to know about them.  

What are exit polls and how are they conducted?

An exit poll is a poll of voters conducted soon after they walk out having cast their vote. Conducted by a number of organisations, these post-voting polls ask voters for whom they actually voted, unlike opinion polls that ask voters for whom they plan to vote. Their aim it to predict the actual result of the elections based on the information gathered from the voters. To accurately predict election results, it is important that the exit poll's sample size is geographically, demographically and socially representative. 

When can exit polls be broadcast? 

Under Section 126A of the Representation of the People's Act, 1951, there is a ban on exit polls starting from the commencement of the elections till half an hour after the final phase of polling has been concluded. The embargo will be lifted on Sunday evening at 6.30 pm.

How accurate are they?

Many recent election results have been correctly predicted by exit polls. However, there have been enough number of times when they have proved unreliable to remind us to take them with a pinch of salt. In the recent past, two back-to-back misses had strained their credibility.  

Perhaps the biggest miss for exit polls was the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Almost every pollster had predicted a landslide victory for the ruling BJP-led NDA alliance. However, when the results came out, the NDA was reduced to 189 seats -- against predictions ranging between 230 and 275 seats. Instead, the Congress-led coalition won 222 seats and formed the government. 

Then came the 2009 general elections, which proved to be another failure. Exit polls had suggested an equal contest between the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the NDA. Instead, the UPA ended up winning 262 seats and the NDA 159.