Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Poll Pranks

The recent poll by CNN-IBN, presented by The Hindu and conducted by CSDS, led by Yogendra Yadav, puts Rahul Gandhi as the most popular choice as Prime Minister at 19% vote by the population sample and 42% of the UPA sample. (If I missed out anyone involved in the exercise please remind me!) Hang on though, we’ll get to that poll in a few minutes.

First, let’s have some fun. In an episode from the 80s TV series ‘Yes Prime Minister’, Jim Hacker, PM, wants to announce a ‘grand design’ by cancelling introduction of the Trident nuclear missiles and reintroducing conscription (national service). Sir Humphrey, his permanent Dept. Secretary doesn’t want him to make such an announcement and has to turn the cabinet ministers’ opinion against the decision. What follows is an interesting poll exercise between Humphrey and the PM’s assistant, Bernard Woolley. Here are some random and edited excerpts (in blue):

Plot: Jim Hacker has just returned from his visit to the American President in Washington. While the PM is suffering from jet-lag (in other words: sleeping), Bernard Woolley is briefed by Sir Humphrey to stop the PM from announcing his Grand Design (canceling Trident and reintroducing conscription) in his first television broadcast. Jim Hacker sounds out General Howard about canceling Trident. The General is in favour because Britain does not need it. When the General later learns from Sir Humphrey that canceling Trident also would mean a reintroduction of conscription, his opinion about canceling Trident changes immediately.

Bernard goes to see Sir Humphrey and tells him that Hacker is planning to announce his Grand Design in the broadcast. The PM thinks it will be a vote-winner because a Party poll has shown that 64% of the population are in favour of reintroducing conscription. Sir Humphrey advises Bernard to issue another poll to show the majority of the population is against reintroducing conscription. Bernard wonders how this can be done and Sir Humphrey explains it. Sir Humphrey will make sure all the Permanent Secretaries will brief their Ministers to oppose the Grand Design.

After the Cabinet meeting where the Grand Design is discussed Jim Hacker is rather puzzled by the outcome. All his Cabinet colleagues who were previously in favour of it, now all seemed against it. The Foreign Secretary was talking about how it could look as appeasing the Soviets. The Defence Secretary was saying that Britain should have the best and Trident is the best. And the Employment Secretary was raving about how conscription will let an army of trained killers loose on the streets.

Sir Humphrey advises Hacker not to announce his Grand Design in the television broadcast. Bernard gives Hacker the results of the latest poll that shows that 73% of the population are against conscription. Hacker now thinks it is best not to refer to the Grand Design in the speech.

The discussion here between Humphrey and Bernard is a good example of how poll pranks are played out:

Humphrey: "You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don't want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Do you think they respond to a challenge?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?"
Bernard: "Oh...well, I suppose I might be."
Humphrey: "Yes or no?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can't say no to that. So they don't mention the first five questions and they publish the last one."
Bernard: "Is that really what they do?"

Humphrey: "Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren't many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result."
Bernard: "How?"
Humphrey: "Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Are you worried about the growth of armaments?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?"
Bernard: "Yes"
Humphrey: "There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample."

So, you see, just as Sir Humphrey’s questions are motivated by his own policy beliefs most opinion polls in India have similar motivation. Now you will be explained the methodology and how scientific it was and all that. That doesn’t mean the questionnaire used for the ballot itself was scientific. Did you get to see the questionnaire? I did not and then there are direct discussions with respondents that can be safely left to your imagination.

Opinion polls not only need to provide options but also need to take into account realistic probabilities of someone being a real candidate for say, the prime-minister post. By what logic does the survey consider A.B. Vajpayee to be a candidate? The man has retired from politics, has decided not to contest elections again and yet he is an option. This is tom-foolery at its best. In a lesser way L.K. Advani also falls into the same category. I doubt he is considered  a PM candidate even by the BJP or NDA.  In contrast Nitish Kumar, after his great victory last year in Bihar was being touted as a PM candidate by CNN-IBN, is missing from the list. Was he there on the list and did he poll zero votes? If there is some stupid logic in Vajpayee being on the list then I am quite certain even Amitabh Bachchan or Rajnikanth would have polled some votes if they were included. So just like in real elections some candidates are put up just to divide votes, maybe ABV and LKA might be those candidates in this particular poll. Very clever. Now I wonder what the questionnaire actually contained.

Then, having concluded Rahul Gandhi is going to be the most popular choice for PM (whether by secret ballot or just verbal interaction is not clear now) there are other questions kept ready for the respondents. You will find them in pic 2 and 3. Is he trustworthy and pro-poor? What one thought of his Bhatta-Parsaul adventure and even if he is ready and should become PM straightaway. Okay, but when it comes to a poll for candidates from within the BJP itself there is no Advani. So now we should be convinced that LKA is not a preferred candidate within the BJP itself but according to the pollsters is good enough to be a candidate for popular vote by the general public respondents.

Now, if they had these questions about Rahul Gandhi ready for the respondents what about similar questions about other candidates? Nothing? It would be really interesting to see the pro-poor or trustworthy votes for at least one more candidate from the list. If not, I doubt the pollsters even measured all the candidates on the same parameters in the poll.
So all of us Bernards can now see how the perfect balanced population sample was used, with the best questionnaire and with the best and realistic options for PM candidate. Why go through all this painful trouble? CNN-IBN and CSDS should just listen to Digvijay Singh! He declares Rahul Gandhi PM almost every fortnight, doesn’t he? We could have been saved the pranks.


  1. Deadly article - http://mughalistan.wordpress.com/

  2. This is height of "PAID NEWS".Ravinar you should launch English News Channel without further delay.We are sick of CNN-IBN,NDTV,TIMES NOW,NEWS X and HEADLINES TODAY.

  3. Time after time this Yogendra joker fails but takes no responsibility for his utterings and findings. IIRC, let me dig up a quote of this congress stooge moron AKA so called social scientist. He seems more like a lifafa pollster. Social scientist, my foot.


    Let’s look at what Mr Yogendra Yadav of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies said on the eve of first phase of polling in Gujarat. “Democracy is taking revenge on Mr Narendra Modi. This election may well be the long-deferred moment of truth for the man who invoked popular mandate to bypass norms, laws or the Constitution,” he had warned. Well, rather than democracy taking revenge on Mr Modi, it has chosen to extend his lease, and handsomely, at that. His themes of vibrant Gujarat, intolerance towards terrorists and development have clicked well with the electorate, which has spoken and put Modi in charge once again......
    Ironically, the opinionated psephologists were very charitable in forecasting the Congress’ prospects.

  4. @ Madhusudan Thakkar

    At least on Gujarat all of them were wrong, even if Yogendra Yadav was the worst of the lot. He was just as wrong about Karnataka too in 2008. He came up with a poll that voted HD Kumaraswamy as the best chief minister.

    Well, these 'social-scientists' organisations need to spread untruths and sometimes outright lies because they depend heavily on the crumbs thrown at them by the establishment. There are many such orgs in and around Delhi which specialise in frequently disseminating myths and lies. They wouldn't otherwise survive as their fund-flow depends heavily on propaganda.

    Is it any surprise that as recently as April-May this year they were just as badly wrong on Tamil Nadu elections?

  5. yogendra yadav - looks a fake , talks like a fake,results are fake - has to be a fake. the only thing true about him is his fakeness. cnn ibn should pay him fake money.

  6. Yogendra yadav and CNN IBNN's predictions have always gone bust.
    Look at the timeing for this poll. These media bastards want to slowly dump MMS and bring in the amul baby and thrust him upon this country.

    Media will be doing the greatest disservice to the nation if they try to project RG as the PM.

    We all know he is a retarded , good for nothing, amul baby who just does nothing but pure theatrics. He is least bothered about any of the burning issues that the nation is going through now as he and his mother are neck deep in that (scams).

    We as the people of the country should strongly exercise our franchise and boot this guy out of elections once and for all.

  7. Chandrababu naidu manipulated international media as if his popularity was global appreciating but in subsequent election he laid flat and he stands far away from standing from it then on wards and it appears a distanced one. Thus the very name of cnn, ibn, burkah, vir singvi, are all in celestial living and the very name of the drug addict is puking for the common nowadays.

    More to the point, there are myriads of bad opinions about congress in AP, if there is no AP support, there is no cong at the center.The cong in fine may grant separate Telangana minus Hyderabad and the TRS may be forced to merge with congress, yet it will have its own repercussion from rest of AP. In the given situation the paid news is puking indeed

  8. (Inclusive of your earlier posts)

    well said. Not that I am a Hindu that I subscribe to your views but I am an universal being.

    Seemas are sub-standard beings to start with. No journalistic skills can emanate from the fountain of Seemas. Our political and social environments are responsible for the growth of Seemas.

    I need a gun to shoot myself whenever I read the first page of any of our newspapers, or a chappal in hand to throw at my TVs screen when I watch the news programme and debates.

    Only sub-standard anchors and sub-standard personalities keep appearing in our sub-standard TV Channels.

    For fear that I may destroy my TV, I do not sit in front of my TV these days. We have sub-standard newspapers in the country because we have substandard news reporters and editors.

    What a country is ours? Scams all over, morning to evening and at all places of worship and work.

    There is a need of an atomic bomb to destroy whole of India and Indians and to start all over again. Hi Ram!!

  9. Dangers of Communism - http://www.myhkweb.com/av/UdhyanNamboothiri.mp3

  10. After Manmohan who? Modi preferred over Rahul as PM: Poll



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