Gallup is probably the world’s best known poll organisation. It is also one of the most trusted research organisations when it comes to opinion polls. But even polls by Gallup may sometimes not be an indicator of the grave impact of events. This is not to suggest that their polls are flawed or unreliable but that current events and trends may not have such an immediate and influential impact. Therefore, some poll results may end up being merely academic or a test of trivia. In the last dialogue in ‘All the President’s Men’, Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post, chides his two journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, thus: “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit.” Richard Nixon became the only American President to resign office. That many major scandals since then would be routinely suffixed with ‘gate’ is an impact that could not have been measured by the poll conducted by Gallup at the time.
That’s right; nobody gaves a shit till it finally hits the ceiling. Has corruption hit the ceiling under Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi? Not if you go by the CNN-IBN polls, which is presently airing on a daily basis as ‘State of the nation’ polls. In contrast to the Gallup poll I've mentioned CNN-IBN is busy indulging in trivia when the shit has already hit the ceiling. Much of the poll is based on questions that can best be described as ‘trivia’ or if you’re in school you might get to answer a GK question of that nature. The man leading the venture is Yogendra Yadav. He has a record of sorts for polls that have gone terribly wrong and has ended up with egg on his face on many occasions. When this happens all too frequently one tends to suspect the motive and aim of the poll itself.
I call the whole exercise ‘Stupefy the nation’ polls. The second instalment of their polls is on ‘Corruption’ and here are some interesting facts from the poll. In the previous poll in which Rahul Gandhi was declared the most popular choice for PM, CSDS (who actually conduct these polls) had clarified that over 70% polled are from rural areas. I’m no poll scientist but let’s look at some of the questions asked in this poll on corruption:
Q. Have you heard of these names? : A. Raja, Kanimozhi, Suresh Kalmadi, Dayanidhi Maran. And the max that have heard of them is 27% and those who actually know them is 22% If you look carefully, none of these are national level politicians in the real sense. Three of them are from a regional party (DMK members from TN) and one Congress member from Maharashtra. Well, why didn’t they ask about Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram or Praful Patel. First, has CNN-IBN given a clean chit to these people? Secondly, the more relevant question would have been if people knew about 2G, CWG, Adarsh and the actual scams rather than names involved in those. There is no need to preclude that only some individuals are involved in the scams as the poll does. This is hardly a popularity contest.
Q. Who is more corrupt – Centre, state or local government? – Now, this is how they fool people by asking a question that measures degree of corruption between various forms of government rather than each government separately. How is the perception of which government is more corrupt relevant at all to the study? It’s like asking you a stupid question: Do you like milk, coffee or tea? Chances are your vote will be divided between the three. In contrast if I asked you if you are a regular coffee drinker or not you are likely to give a more definitive answer. This is nothing but wilfully clouding the issue of corruption to indicate that one is worse than the other and covering up the severity of corruption of each one of them. As a consequence the All-India perception of the centre being corrupt is 35% when the answer to a clear single question would well have been 82%. This is a good hobby to play around with numbers. Alright, so between Manu Sharma and Vikas Yadav you choose who is a bigger murderer.
Q. On Anna Hazare, Ramdev, Lokpal etc ….. How is this relevant at all except for knowledge of trivia or general awareness? And does awareness of these people or their attributes have any significance to corruption? Frankly, I am confident that a huge population from the sample wouldn’t know who Pratibha Patil is. Considering that a majority of the sample is from rural areas it is not even clear if they have access to TV, national newspapers etc. Then, questions about Lokpal etc. Well, if there is a question about Lokpal it would have been worthwhile how many know there is a ‘Prevention of Corruption Act’ or a comparison with it. On a question about the polls Rajdeep Sardesai had tweeted a message to the effect that ‘there is a universe outside of TV channels and Twitter’. That should tell you enough.
Q. Is UPA very corrupt, somewhat corrupt, not much corrupt, not corrupt? Of all the questions this one has to qualify as the most stupid one. Is there a degree of corruption that can somehow be justified or condoned? Is that what these researchers are trying to establish? So in all discussions you will be told about the figure that 28% think UPA is very corrupt. Which clearly attempts to cloud reality and actual facts.(Didn’t they also highlight Rahul Gandhi has popularity of 42% when the real public figure was 19% according to them?) Therefore, the basic message is not everyone really thinks the UPA is that corrupt. Get that? The joke around is that MMS must simply release the names of ministers who are not corrupt. That would be easier. This method of polling almost reduces the exercise to a movie review by a critic who would rate it from 1 star to 5 and reduces the seriousness of the issue of corruption.
When Ajay Maken tried to pin the appointment of Suresh Kalmadi as CWGOC chairman on the NDA the media went to town with his statement. Now that Arun Jaitley has completely destroyed and exposed his lies, the media looks like a fool as usual. The intricate nature of documents and forgery that are used are not easily comprehensible to a majority of our population. That makes it easier for the media to conduct fake and motivated polls to stupefy the nation. You never know, for all that matters the NDA itself might have bid for the CWG hoping to make a kill but then they lost power. The UPA came to power and made a killing with all the scams. There is no need to rate corruption by number of stars as the CNN-IBN poll attempts to do.
In another poll by Lensonnews website one will find quite a different picture. That is mainly because that poll is only from 5 metro cities. But what Lensonews does is that keeps a clear focus on critical issues rather than trying to flavour the issues with some agenda. There are many issues that a government handles but some are critical to ordinary citizens. To confuse that by multiple choices or choices of degrees is a clearly dishonest poll. That poll also indicates Narendra Modi as a clearly popular choice for the next PM. But that can also be set aside as urban bias
CNN-IBN isn’t yet done with these polls. They will carry one segment each night till independence day. By the time they finish you might find it hard to remember what people’s opinions really are. And, of course, they will tell you Manmohan Singh is still an honourable man.