New Delhi: Historically, exit polls have throughout the world been used to determine whether or not a particular political campaign was successful or not. Like all opinion polls, exit polls by nature do include a margin of error.

“The exit poll is primarily used to calculate voter swing and turnout. The distribution of votes is not even across different polling stations. As a result, an exit poll does have a scope to give an imperfect picture,” says private psephologist Rajeev Tyagi.

Given the relative homogeneity of voters living in a state compared with those throughout the country, the results of an exit poll conducted for state legislative assembly elections are expected to be closer to the actual figures.

“The exit polls are found to be more accurate when it comes to forecasting state legislative assembly elections. For instance, in the recently held state elections, most outfits that conducted exit polls predicted a clear majority for Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and a close fight between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress in Chhattisgarh. This came out to be true,” says psephologist Rashmi Sehgal.

All pollsters agree that without a structured questionnaire, the data for an opinion or exit poll can neither be collected coherently nor be analysed systematically to arrive at vote share estimates.

Banker Sumit Awasthi finds it difficult to rely on the results of an exit poll.

“The exit polls are believed to be a decent indicator of the overall voting trend. But they have been off the mark a few times in the past. Hence, it is prudent to wait for the day when the results are officially announced than to dance to the figures thrown at us through various exit polls,” says Awasthi.

Likewise, architect Ashutosh Singh says exit polls just mean crystal ball gazing and not necessarily the writing on the wall.

“Exit polls are refined, modern and educated form of crystal ball gazing. Although there is tremendous voter interest involved in knowing which party will get the majority or form the government, historically speaking, the exit poll results have rarely come out to be true,” says Singh.