A Handbook of Poll Surveys in Media: An Indian Perspective, N. Bhaskara Rao (Dr), Gyan Publishing House, Pp 329, Rs 550.00 (HB)
SCIENTIFICALLY conducted field surveys can be helpful in many decision-making situations and for strategising future course of action, including electoral fortunes. If the surveys are not objectively conducted and presented transparently, they can be misleading and even counter productive.
India is no stranger to poll surveys. With the wide reach of both the electronic and print media, opinion and exit polls have become a regular feature on the eve of elections during the last two decades. The Election Commission consulted political parties on the outcome of poll surveys in 1997 and again in 2004, and prescribed certain guidelines for publishing the results of opinion and exit polls during the Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and 1999. In early 2009, a Bill was introduced in Parliament prohibiting publishing of results of opinion and exit polls during the period starting from the time the campaigning ends, that is, 48 hours before the close of poll for the first phase of election and till the completion of poll in all phases.
The author of this reference book, which is meant for those in the news media covering electoral politics and for political leaders and aspiring candidates, has tried to convey that the scope and structure of surveys needs to be understood better than we do now, particularly about the free and fair conduction of elections. In this process, the news media has to play a responsible role. Potential of poll survey can be unleashed only when there is transparency in conducting and covering them. The news media and news agencies have to make special effort to show that their surveys are neither manufactured nor manipulated.
To describe the contents in brief, Chapter 1 presents a review of the origin of poll surveys and the concerns and motivations for their proliferation over the years. The book describes the function of analysts, pollsters and psephologists and even profiles some of them to stress the need to know their credentials as a part of transparency in poll surveys. The eighth chapter describes persuasive ways of parties to stay ahead in polls and poll surveys and how surveys have become the means for candidate selection. The ninth chapter calls for a rethink in the media about the relevance of poll surveys and the tenth chapter outlines the way forward to surveys as a potential tool for sustaining and deepening the democratic traditions in the country.
(Gyan Publishing House, 23 Main Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002.)