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The Fraud Called Opinion Polls

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News Express, a news and current affairs television channel, claims to have exposed malpractices of 11 opinion poll agencies via a sting operation

Its sting operation, titled Operation Prime Minister, revealed, the channel claimed, that pollsters are willing to manipulate data and provide “misleading results”.

While the sting operation does not show how or which specific survey in the past was deliberately manipulated, nor offer any evidence for it, transcripts provided by the channel show that heads of such agencies were willing to provide two sets of data — original and manipulated — for different rates when purportedly approached on behalf of political parties.

News Express editor-in-chief Vinod Kapri said in a press-conference that they wished to “expose the mindset and intent” of the polling agencies and were motivated by the Election Commission’s letter to political parties inviting their views on opinion polls and the mushrooming of such polls.

Kapri said their sting showed that these polling agencies are willing to manipulate data to any extent at the behest of the client by way of deleting negative data or simply increasing the margin of error to show a spike in seats.

In all, the sting operation involved undercover journalists meeting 11 polling agencies as representatives of political parties. Most of these 11 agencies are neither well-known names nor do any major work for any of the prominent media houses. Among the three big names two -- AC Nielsen and CSDS-Lokniti -- did not entertain the News Express reporters and said they were booked for election season.

In one clip telecast, C-Voter'sYashwant Deshmukh is seen telling the News Express's undercover reporter that while 3% was the standard margin of error, “at best, we can put it to 5%”. "rafu kar sakte hain, paiband nahii lagaa sakte hain," he is heard saying. [We can darn, but not put a patch]

Responding on Twitter, Deshmukh said, “I hope dear old friend Vinod Kapdi (sic) also shows me denying all his efforts and saying clearly that CVoter and Yashwant can’t do such things.”

No such footage was shown, but there have always been murmurs about C-Voter in the past as well. Way back in January 2012, in a blogpost for exitopinionpollsindia, Rajan Alexander asked: C-Voter: Two different UP opinion polls; two contrasting predictions. Why should any one believe them?

Following the sting, India Today said they were "suspending all opinion polls being carried out by C-Voter for the India Today Group. A show-cause notice is also being sent to C-Voter seeking a response on the charges levelled by the news channel."

C-Voter had been contracted by India Today for the forthcoming general elections to conduct various opinion polls for the group, the statement clarified.

Some of the reactions on Twitter:

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