Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sting operation reveals massive manipulation by opinion poll agencies By ET Bureau | 26 Feb, 2014, 04.43AM IST


Sting operation reveals massive manipulation by opinion poll agencies 

By ET Bureau | 26 Feb, 2014, 04.43AM IST 
NEW DELHI: A number of opinion polling agencies approached by undercover reporters agreed to manipulate poll data, a television news channel has claimed, sparking a fresh controversy in a heated election season as senior ministers and political parties called for an investigation. 

Clips from the sting operation aired by the channel showed many pollsters agreeing to produce favourable numbers by leveraging the so-called margin of error, a statistical concept meant to indicate the quality of sampling and the accuracy to be expected from survey results. "For a price, the prediction of seats tally can be changed to suit the interests of political parties. 

The agencies have no qualms accepting even black money for this purpose," the channel, News Express, said in a statement. Polling agencies approached by the channel include QRS, CVoter, Ipsos India, MMR and DRS, apart from a clutch of littleknown ones. Representatives from these agencies are seen responding variously to the undercover reporters, who posed as consultants for political parties. 

India Today magazine and Times NOW have said they were suspending opinion polls conducted by C-Voter, pending an explanation from the agency. 

Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party called for an investigation. Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal urged the Election Commission to urgently take up the matter. "This (the expose) is a very serious development. It shows these agencies are trying to manipulate public opinion. It is nothing but paidnews, manufactured to serve vested interests. 

This is an extremely serious offense that warrants a full-fledged inquiry... I also call upon the Election Commission to take all effective steps to ensure such shady operators are not allowed to manipulate the public opinion in the run up to the elections." In November last year, the Election Commission had written to the government asking that a law be passed to restrict release of opinion poll results after the notification of elections. Fourteen out of fifteen national parties had agreed to the proposal. 

BJP opposed the proposal, saying such a move would impinge on freedom of expression. "We got the idea for the sting operation from the Election Commission letter. And then the fact that there seemed to be a new opinion poll almost every day now. Everybody is a pollster and a psephologist it seems," said Vinod Kapri, editor in chief of News Express. 

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