Much hype has been generated by opinion polls of late. Happily though, it has helped us looking into opinion polls with greater focus. Democratic voting is predicated on informed opinions. It could be through party manifestos or various media. A voter is much interested in what is the trend of general thinking and this cannot be attempted to be denied to him. That said, there is a distinct differentiation, say, between straw polls and opinion polls. In a two-party dispensation, the party agendas being clearer and evident, there is not much of a hiatus between these two variations. In a multiple-party set-up leaning heavily on endemic local issues, an opinion poll is invariably jacketed into a narrow band of issues and reduced to a straw poll. For a national level election, such polls would always tend to skew away from core concerns. In a six-decade-old democracy as ours, even opinion polls would need a guided path to travel along and gather increasing significance. We have surely moved past the “onion age” of recording public perceptions. It is time that the Election Commission itself shepherds opinion polls under broad guidelines, be it specific questionnaires, spread or scientific representation and so forth, in drawing out opinions. It is imperative that all the stakeholders to a fair election warmly encourage opinion polls, albeit under initial guidance and oversight. In fact, we may, over time, as guidelines get assimilated, be even able to step into an era of referenda that has proved beneficial in big-ticket course-correction for many a progressive nation. Size of our vast electorate should not deter us. Nor should informed opinions.
R Narayanan, Ghaziabad