US polls: 3 reasons today’s media is failing to predict election results correctly

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Despite the latest technological support, the media has been unable to read the voter's mind correctly in several key elections; lack of serious field work and turning too judgemental the reasons?

The result of the 2016 presidential election in the United States has gone completely against what the popular media had predicted. Unlike a cakewalk for Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton as one was thinking it would be, the woman seeking to create history is now struggling to reach the finishing line faster than her opponent. For Trump, on the other hand, everything else looks irrelevant now.

Media failed to predict US result

This proves that predicting election results is not a child's play. No matter how big a pundit is doing the job, the risk of losing the bet is always high. And given the latest mechanism available to analyse poll prospects, falling so wide off the target so often makes it ironic. Be it in the US or India.

Media couldn't predict Vajpayee's fall in 2004

In 2004, when the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had decided to hold the Lok Sabha polls earlier than the schedule, not many had thought that it would lose the election ultimately. Given Vajpayee's good track record as the prime minister and the Opposition led by a weak Congress, it came as a great shocker for the BJP when it was kicked out of power. But the fact remained so and Sonia Gandhi's Congress led the next ruling coalition at the Centre. The media had failed to predict the 'undercurrent' in the election.

Neither could it forecast Brexit results correctly

Something similar happened during the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom earlier this year as well. Most pollsters failed to predict the actual mood of the people and eventually the popular verdict was in favour of the 'Leave' group.

Several other examples can be picked from various other elections, showing the media's vulnerability in predicting things correctly.

Hence, the question that arises: Has the media lost the capacity to do the job that it proudly undertakes? Can it really read the complex mind of the voters?

That the media is failing to get its act together more frequently than not gives the feeling that it is not really capable to compete with the human mind even with the latest software.

Media's surveys are mostly exclusive and lack depth...

First, the media today looks more a lazy lot which is reluctant to engage in extensive field study. The decision to engage corporate number crunchers who do most of the work in air-conditioned boardrooms instead in the fields has not been an effective way to read the voters' hidden wish. The undercurrent seems to flow more in regions and among groups that are often excluded from shabby surveys. But those geographical and human factors have a greater say in the final count than a few preconceived minds living in cities.

Media itself has become judgmental...

Second, the media itself has tended to have a subjective voice nowadays. May be, this is also an effect of democracy which has spread across the world. But since the media is missing its objectivity and getting inclined to one or the other political quarter, the possibility of it erring on understanding the bigger picture is also increasing. For example, in case of Narendra Modi or Donald Trump, the media also became an important player in the tussle by raising its voice against the election candidates and tending to paint them in certain colour. This is a complete anti-thesis to how the media should actually act. The result: Misleading people and misfiring at the end.

Media focuses more on candidates' individuality...

Finally, one gets a clue that the media nowadays, because it is getting too judgmental, is not paying attention to the complexities of elections. The focus is too much on the good and bad of candidates rather than the set-up around them. Electoral candidates mostly succeed because they cater to a particular predominant constituency and not how they are as personal human beings. Hence, whether Modi dislikes Muslims or Trump humiliates women becomes secondary questions but the media, somehow, tend to focus more on the personal aspects thinking it would turn the ethical voters off. But in politics, two plus two isn't always four.

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