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Opinion Polls: Complexities and Errors*

CASELET, MARKETING RESEARCH
ET Cases - GSMC, 6 Pages

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Opinion Polls: Complexities and Errors

 

India is the second most populous country and the largest democracy in the world. The multiparty system is the political system followed in India. The President is the Head of the State and Prime Minister as the Head of the Government. Legislative power is vested in the two houses of the Parliament, namely, the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). Presently, India has 29 States and 7 Union Territories (GOI Web Directory, n.d). The States have their own Legislative Assemblies and the Chief Minister is the elected Head of Government at State level (India: A Dynamic Democracy, n.d). Members of Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies are elected by adult citizens aged 18 or above on the basis of adult suffrage (Indian Elections, n.d). Elections were held every five years separately for Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. While Lok Sabha has 545 seats (Lok Sabha Secretariat, 2009), the number of  seats in State Legislative Assemblies varied depending on the size and population of the state. Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country has 403 seats (Uttar Pradesh, n.d) and Puducherry, the smallest state, has only 30 seats (Puducherry, n.d).

Elections are held every 5 years for State Legislative Assemblies. Elections for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab were held between February4th and March 3rd 2012 (Balchand, 2011 & eci.nic.in, 2012). Polling was held for a total of 690 assembly seats, 403 in U.P, 117 in Punjab, 70 in Uttarakhand, 60 in  Manipur and 40 in Goa (The Times of India, 2012, March 6). Involving a massive number of over 150 million electors across five states, these elections were seen as precursor to the National elections (Lok Sabha Polls) in 2014 and considered to be very important to all political parties (The Indian Express, 2012). Particularly, Uttar Pradesh with 403 seats and Punjab with 117 seats had received substantial attention by political parties and media alike.....................

Teaching Note Preview

Opinion Polls: Complexities and Errors

 

Synopsis

Elections for state legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh (UP) along with Punjab and three other states in India were held in February/March 2012. Uttar Pradesh, being the largest state in India with a population of 200 million, had always played a crucial role in Indian politics. Many people considered these elections as precursor to the national (Lok Sabha) elections in 2014 and believed that the outcome of these elections might strongly impact Lok Sabha elections. Given the  importance of these elections, both print and electronic media carried out opinion polls before the voting had actually taken place. The predictions of these opinion polls were far off from the final election results and made psephologists and researchers wonder what went wrong with their surveys.

Teaching Objectives and Target Audience

This case can be used to teach students various potential sources of error in research, the margin of error, confidence intervals, relationship between sample size and margin of error and sampling techniques. It is suitable for a course in research methods or marketing research. It can also be used in a marketing class to discuss limitations of marketing research and what precautions are needed while undertaking research.

Assignment Questions

  • I. What could be the reasons for the failure of opinion polls to predict poll results correctly?
  • II. The India-Today ORG survey in Punjab claimed that the findings were subject to a margin of error of 3 per cent. What does margin of error mean? What should be the acceptable error margin?
  • III. ........................................

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Abstract

Elections for State Legislative Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab were held between February 4th and March 3rd 2012. Polling was held for a total of 690 assembly seats, 403 in U.P, 117 in Punjab, 70 in Uttarakhand, 60 in Manipur and 40 in Goa. Involving a massive number of over 150 million  electors across five states, these elections were seen as precursor to the General elections (Lok Sabha Polls) in 2014 and considered to be very important to all political parties. Given the high number of seats involved, polls in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab attracted lot of media attention and a number of media houses and research  agencies conducted opinion polls between November 2011 and February 2012.

The opinion polls by and large, predicted that no party would get absolute majority in Uttar Pradesh and the state would end up having a hung assembly. In Punjab  opinion polls predicted that Congress-I would come to power. The poll results, however, shocked everyone as Samajwadi Party won the polls with unprecedented  majority in UP and Congress-I lost comprehensively in Punjab. The Samajwadi Party had won 224 out of 403 seats in UP, beating the predictions of many psephologists, who forecasted only 130-140 seats for it. Similarly, opinion polls predicted 61-69 seats for Congress-I in Punjab, where as it won only 46 seats. The large gap between pre-poll predictions and the final results made many people question the utility of such polls and left psephologists and researchers wondering where they went wrong in their estimation.



Pedagogical Objectives
This case study can be used to teach students various potential sources of error in research, the margin of error, confidence intervals, relationship between sample size and margin of error and sampling techniques


Case Positioning and Setting
It is suitable for a course in research methods or marketing research. It can also be used in a marketing class to discuss limitations of marketing research and what precautions are needed while undertaking research.

* GSMC 2014, IIM Raipur

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