Exit polls were all the rage on Monday evening after
Uttar Pradesh voted for the last of its seven-phase elections. Analysts and
media outlets made bold projections about who is going to win how many seats
and what the mood of voters across the five states tells us about the general
political environment.

Opoyi’s poll of polls has constructed an average of published
exit polls by averaging out the mid-point and range outcomes predicted by other
published exit polls.

Also Read | BJP coming back to power in Uttar Pradesh, predict exit polls

Opoyi’s poll of polls predicts BJP retaining Uttar
Pradesh winning 221-243 seats out of 403, AAP winning Punjab with 57-71 seats
out of 117, a potentially hung Assembly in Goa with BJP winning 15 to 18 seats
out of 40, a slim majority for BJP in Manipur with 27-33 seats out of 60 and an
edge for the BJP in Uttarakhand with 32-38 seats out of 70.

Also Read | Exit polls give Punjab to AAP

The exit polls saw the BJP celebrate while the Samajwadi
Party (SP) and the Congress maintained that exit polls cannot be trusted blindly.
So, can exit polls really be trusted? How far are they grounded in fact? What
are the rules surrounding exit polls in India?

How are exit polls conducted?

Exit polls, as the name suggests, are held as voters
exit their polling booths. Pollsters wait outside the booths ask voters who
they voted for.

This methodology is often quite simplistic as the
results depend on who the analysts ask and where they ask the questions and
whether voters come out and actually tell them who they voted for.

One of the most common methods of conducting exit
polls is to select a random sample size and then analyse the resultant data.
The first exit polls were conducted in India in 1957, the second elections to
be conducted in independent India.

Do exit polls ever get it wrong?

West Bengal

One doesn’t have to look far to see exit polls going
wrong. Last year, in the high-octane West Bengal elections, the exit polls
vastly overstated the BJP’s poll performance. Nearly all exit polls predicted
over 100 seats for the BJP with one even predicting a BJP victory.

The results: The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool
Congress won 222 out of 292 seats while the BJP managed only 70.

Uttar Pradesh

Following the 2017 Assembly elections, exit polls predicted
a hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state. None of the exit polls
gave the BJP over 200 seats out of 403. The results: BJP swept to power with
312 seats, having completely decimated the incumbent Samajwadi Party.

2014 Lok Sabha polls

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which saw Narendra Modi rise
to power, also saw exit polls go wrong. While all exit polls did say that BJP
will be the single-largest party, most stopped short of giving them the
majority mark. When the results came, the BJP had over 300 seats, a landslide

Are there any rules surrounding exit

The validity of exit polls and opinion polls have been
contested for a long time. Most political parties have, at one time or another,
sought a ban on exit polls. The Election Commission has been of the opinion
that exit polls tend to interfere with free and fair elections. Section 126 A
of the Representation of People Act bans all exit polls from the period between
the commencement of the polls until half an hour after the final phase of the