Television

TV news channels, exit polls & Delhi Assembly elections

Accurate predictions helped news channels to gain credibility and trust of viewers

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MUMBAI: When predictions become a reality, it’s champagne popping time. Or breaking into a Gangnam Style jig on live television. This is exactly what happened with the majority of news channels’ exit polls, which were done in association with various research agencies that surveyed the mood of Delhiites during the state assembly elections.

This time, a majority of the news channels were almost bang-on as far as the final tally for the various parties in the bitterly fought battle to rule New Delhi was concerned. In the process, they possibly gained a veneer of trust from viewers, who have otherwise been possibly put off by the state of news TV and reportage recently. Indeed it should help them get more eyeballs going forward as it most likely did during the vote count and announcement of the results of the hustings on 11 June.

Says India Today Group vice-chairperson Kalli Purie: “Every time we get a poll right the stakes get higher. This was our fifth poll bang on. The trust put in us by our viewers is a big responsibility and makes us work harder. We wear glasses with no colour when we look at data. Data is always neutral. The partnership of the best data input from Axis and serious ground reporting from our team before every election has made this incredible feat possible.”

It was her network which predicted the most accurate outcome in partnership with pollster  Pradeep Gupta’s Axis My India. Their forecast: the Aam Aadmi Party would sweep the elections giving it between 59 and 68 seats in the 70-member Assembly, while BJP and its allies,  would get two to eleven seats and the Congress none.

"We follow international best practices,” says Axis My India chairman & managing director Pradeep Gupta. “Our methodology is highly refined that helps us eliminate margins of error. Our sampling is the most demographically and politically representative in any given election. There's zero tolerance for any compromise on the quality. That's perhaps the reason why the Harvard Business School is doing a case study on Axis My India for the GE 2019 predictions."

India Today Group-Axis My India exit polls have accurately predicted 33 out of the 35 elections over the past four years. And, the trend of being near to correct has been going on since last year’s general election followed by Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand Assembly elections.

APB News Network chief executive officer Avinash Pandey concurs with Purie’s view that accuracy in exit polls helps build up perceptions toward news television. Says he: “The exit polls raise the stickiness and strengthen the loyalty towards a channel; they are a significant element as they predict the outcome of the final result. The data points help news channels establish faith in the eyes of the viewers and emerge as a credible entity.”

He adds that elections being of national importance, “there have been times when news channels have surpassed GEC viewership numbers by comfortable margins during both exit poll and counting days, especially on counting days as the numbers keep changing by the minute.”

ABP News Network in association with Centre for Voting Opinion & Trends in Election Research (CVoter), was the second most accurate with its poll prediction. It projected Aam Aadmi Party to win 51 to 65 seats, followed by BJP with three to 17 seats, and zero to three seats for the Congress, which was quite close to the actual results.

Cvoter sampled 11,839 voters in New Delhi after they cast their ballot on the EVMs.

Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar points out that exit polls are based on actual field survey and mathematical extrapolation, and “a lot of times predictably algorithms and good fieldwork can give results in line with actual results data. Since exit polls are conducted prior to the actual results and sometimes at least two to three days prior they do help shore up eyeballs on the main day that see a spike in viewership. The maximum traction that news channels generally receive is observed when data is live and counting of votes is on. The second spike comes for the evening debates on the election day.”

Times Now, in association with research agency Ipsos, was relatively optimistic about the BJP’s performance in its exit poll. Ipsos predicted that the BJP would snare 23 seats and AAP would pocket 47, which was quite off the mark.

ABP News’ Pandey says the network’s flagship program Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri attracted sponsors such as Signature Pan Masala, Rakesh Masale, and Tata Altroz. “The property has had a tremendous lineage of viewers for the past 17 years and with every election, it has grown bigger and more popular amongst the viewers,” he reveals.

“A  property such as elections turn eyeballs of viewers and advertisers to the news channels,” says media veteran Anita Nayyar.  “Exit polls set the mood and opinion of the viewers and have an important role to play as it tells in which direction the wave is going. Since viewers are glued to the events such as exit polls and counting days, the advertisers want to take the leverage this opportunity and it becomes important for them.”

Dentsu Aegis Network India chief executive officer Anand Bhadkamkar opines that he would like news channels to be consistently on the button, not just during exit polls. Says he: “Exit polls are definitely one of the factors to increase the credibility of news channels but consistent and impartial performance helps the news broadcaster maximum to generate credibility of the channel. Election is one of the important events where spends do work. Brands and advertisers do want to leverage on the space where there are major eyeballs being glued.”

A view echoed by Madison Media senior general manager Chirag Shah. Says he: “Exit polls’ accuracy in line with actual results does give a short term benefit of consumer buzz related to credibility. But news channel loyalty depends on overall content on the channel. News viewing and relatability is a habit that is formed over a longer period of time. Advertiser support is also a longer-term partnership.”

In the battle for Delhi that concluded on Tuesday, the Aam Aadmi Party for the third straight time emerged victorious, gaining 62 seats in the 70-member Assembly of the national capital; it received over 50 per cent of the vote share. Delhi’s denizens rejected the Congress this election too, like in the last one. Trailing behind AAP, the Bharatiya Janata Party bagged eight seats, improving its performance compared to the 2015 elections when it won just three seats.

But the biggest gainers of this election were the news channels and their research agencies, which predicted the results right.

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