Examining the Accuracy of Exit Polls in India’s 2014 and 2019 Elections

Last Updated on June 2, 2024 11:12 am

As India awaits the official results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, set to be announced on June 4 by the Election Commission of India, the nation is abuzz with exit poll projections released just after voting concluded today. These exit polls, while not definitive, offer a glimpse into the potential outcome and generate significant public and media interest. To understand how reliable these projections might be, it’s insightful to look back at the accuracy of exit polls from the previous two general elections in 2014 and 2019.

2014 Lok Sabha Elections: A Missed Landslide

In 2014, exit polls unanimously predicted a victory for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but they largely underestimated the scale of the win. Here’s a comparison of the exit poll projections versus the actual results:

Exit Poll Predictions for NDA:

  • India Today-Cicero: 272 seats
  • News 24-Chanakya: 340 seats
  • CNN-IBN-CSDS: 280 seats
  • Times Now ORG: 249 seats
  • ABP News-Nielsen: 274 seats
  • NDTV-Hansa Research: 279 seats

Exit Poll Predictions for UPA:

  • India Today-Cicero: 115 seats
  • News 24-Chanakya: 101 seats
  • CNN-IBN-CSDS: 97 seats
  • Times Now ORG: 148 seats
  • ABP News-Nielsen: 97 seats
  • NDTV-Hansa Research: 103 seats

Actual Results:

  • NDA: 336 seats (BJP alone won 282 seats)
  • UPA: 60 seats (Congress won just 44 seats)

Most exit polls underestimated the NDA’s landslide victory, with actual results showing the BJP far surpassing the majority mark on its own, a feat not fully captured by any poll.

2019 Lok Sabha Elections: Closer but Still Off

In 2019, the exit polls showed improved accuracy, yet some still fell short of predicting the exact strength of the BJP’s performance:

Exit Poll Predictions for NDA:

  • India Today-Axis: 339-365 seats
  • News 24-Today’s Chanakya: 350 seats
  • News18-IPSOS: 336 seats
  • Times Now VMR: 306 seats
  • India TV-CNX: 300 seats
  • Sudarshan News: 305 seats

Exit Poll Predictions for UPA:

  • India Today-Axis: 77-108 seats
  • News 24-Today’s Chanakya: 95 seats
  • News18-IPSOS: 82 seats
  • Times Now VMR: 132 seats
  • India TV-CNX: 120 seats
  • Sudarshan News: 124 seats

Actual Results:

  • NDA: 352 seats (BJP alone secured 303 seats)
  • UPA: 91 seats (Congress won 52 seats)

While the predictions for the NDA were generally more accurate than in 2014, they still slightly underestimated the final tally for the BJP. Conversely, they tended to overestimate the performance of the UPA.

Looking Ahead to 2024

The 2024 elections present another head-to-head contest between the BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led INDIA bloc. With the ruling BJP targeting an ambitious “400 paar” seat goal under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the exit polls released today are under intense scrutiny.

Given the historical context, while exit polls can provide a useful snapshot, their past performance shows a tendency to either underplay or overshoot the margins of victory. As the country eagerly awaits the official results, these historical trends remind us to treat exit polls with cautious interest, understanding that the final tally often holds surprises.

The final count on June 4 will reveal whether the exit polls for 2024 have managed to improve in accuracy or if, once again, the actual voter sentiment will diverge from the predictions.

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