The Problem With Exit Polls in Indian Elections

The results of elections in five states will be announced Tuesday. In Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, exit polls released over the weekend indicate that the party of the current chief minister, Mayawati, is headed for certain defeat. The incumbents in the other four states — Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur — are also expected to suffer defeats or lose seats.

But can we rely on these exit polls?

In 2007, Ms. Mayawati, who uses only one name, led the Bahujan Samaj Party to a decisive and historic victory, even though none of the exit polls predicted that she would win. The party won 205 seats in the 403-member state legislature, the first time any single party had won a clear majority in 18 years.

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