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How the Spiral of Silence theory has ensured exit polls can go horribly wrong


New Delhi, May 20: In the year 1974, German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann proposed the Spiral of Silence theory. This was meant to refer to the tendency of the people to remain silent when they feel that their views. Are in opposition to the majority view on the subject.

The theory says the people remain silent for two major reasons: First it is the fear of isolation when a group of the public realises that the individual has a divergent view from the status quo. Secondly the fear of reprisal or more extreme isolation, for instance voicing the opinion might lead to a negative consequence beyond that of mere isolation.

How the Spiral of Silence theory has ensured exit polls can go horribly wrong

The Spiral of Silence theory becomes important to understand in the wake of the exit polls results that were released on Sunday. The election has been an issueless one and fought more on nationalism and other sentiments. This theory has proven to throw up surprise results. Take for instance the Tamil Nadu elections of 2009, Brexit and the US Presidential elections.

Exit polls 2019: BJP set to return to powerExit polls 2019: BJP set to return to power

Past instances have shown that the voter when quizzed by the pollster has chosen to given an opinion in line with the majority view for the fear of being excluded by others. In Tamil Nadu, one had witnessed a similar trend in 2009, when a majority of voters had said that they had voted for the AIADMK, but in reality it was the DMK. That year it was the DMK which ended up with the major chunk of votes.

Under this theory very often the voter is pushed into being silent. He or she may not express the real view. Moreover in this election one has seen patriotism being a major issue and in such an event, the voter may or may not have revealed their real preference.

According to masscommtheory.com, the spiral effect is experienced in so much as this activates a downward spiral where fears build within the minority opinion holder. Hence the minority opinion is never voiced. The website also says that the media plays an important role in this process, especially in dictating or perceptually dictating the majority opinion.

The silent voter:

Most surveys such as the ones that have been conducted by Lokniti-CSDS and Association for Democratic Reforms show that employment has been a major concern for the voter.

Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor pointed out after the exit polls that he believes that the predictions are wrong. I believe the exit polls are all wrong. In Australia last weekend, 56 different exit polls proved wrong. In India many people don't tell pollsters the truth fearing they might be from the Government. Will wait till 23rd for the real results, he had tweeted.

Exit poll results suggest setback for NDA in south India, regional parties to do wellExit poll results suggest setback for NDA in south India, regional parties to do well

The silent voter will be king on May 23 rd 2019. The "fear factor" playing havoc with respondents to pollsters in an ugly polarized election. Ridiculous ExitPolls , almost laughable, Congress leader Sanjay Jha had said on Twitter.

Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu said on Sunday that exit polls are not exact polls. There are just a few days for the results, what is the harm in waiting until then, he had asked suggesting that people should not take these surveys seriously.

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