originally published at The Net Paper
Internet opinion polls are unscientific and unreliable. They reflect the views of only those who have an internet connection, and those who choose to respond. They are skewed. They lack credibility. They are tools of spin, propaganda and manipulation.
But, hey, they are fun—and maha revealing, if nothing else of the mindsets of pollsters, or our own.
Around mid-day on Monday, 6 July 2020, a poll on the Twitter handle of ABP News, the TV channel owned by the Anandabazar Patrika group, was proceeding firmly in the desired direction of its anchors, owners and their unseen puppeteers.
“Do you think the repeated questioning of the Congress party on defence issues is demoralising the Army?” was the loaded question, the standard defence of the BJP to avoid scrutiny or deflect attention from hot-button issues.
Rohan Gupta, the chairman of the Congress’ social media department, jumped in and exhorted twitterati to vote ‘no’. And, voila, in a couple of hours, the tables had turned. The verdict of 46,547 respondents (below) had gone against the script.
Job done, Gupta deleted his original tweet, in favour of a victory speech of the “befitting response” given by “the people” to those who had set the poll.
All in a day’s work for Congress trolls, you might say. Time to move on.
There’s something happening in the illusory world of internet polls, especially among media outlets and “professionals”, who are in the undisguised business of canvassing support for the BJP-led NDA government headed by Narendra Modi.
June 20: Dainik Jagran: Do you agree with the utterances of Rahul Gandhi on the tensions with China?
Yes: 69.3%, No: 28.9%.
June 21: Prabhu Chawla: Should we fully trust the statement by PM Narendra Modi on #ChinaWingsClipped?
Yes: 39%; No: 58%.
June 22: ABP News: Are the nation’s borders secure under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
Yes: 48.7%; No: 51.3%.
June 27: Abhijit Majumder: How do you think the Narendra Modi govt has handled the #China conflict so far?
Well: 36%; Badly: 64%.
Admittedly, internet polls are vacuous media exercises intended to induce a sense of faux participation—“engagement” is the buzzword. They create the mirage of what “the people” think, when there are sophisticated bots and click farms at work.
Still, it is interesting to see that the BJP, which resoundingly won the only poll that counts in a democracy, the general election, seems to be losing more than a few of these instant referendums in the court of public opinion, in recent months.
It is losing them in spite of the expertise of its notorious “IT Cell” in the past. And it is losing them in media outlets known to be cheerleaders of the BJP.
May 27: Dainik Jagran: Is Rahul Gandhi right when he says the lockdown failed in its basic objective? Yes: 67.7%, No: 30.6%.
June 15: Dainik Jagran: In the current crisis, is Congress playing the role of a responsible opposition party? Yes: 59.8%, No: 37.8%.
July 2: Dainik Jagran: Has the government taken the right decision in allowing private companies to run trains on some railway routes? Yes: 36.8%; No; 60.7%.
July 3: Dainik Jagran: Has China received a stern message from Narendra Modi’s Leh visit? Yes: 30.9%; No: 65.9%.
July 4: Dainik Jagran: Is the international support for India’s position on China a reflection of India’s diplomatic success? Yes: 38.6%; No: 57.2%.
While it would be facile to draw any conclusions from internet polls, it would be foolish to dismiss them entirely. After all, they have a much larger sample size than almost any opinion poll, even if it is not scientifically chosen.
Also, in just the last fortnight, internet polls in the same media outlets have thrown up these results.
June 22: ABP News: Should India boycott Chinese products? Yes: 75.7%; No: 24.3%.
June 30: Dainik Jagran: Has the government made the right move in banning 59 Chinese mobile apps including TikTok? Yes: 92.3%; No: 5.5%
July 1: Dainik Jagran: Is Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s resignation a sign of the changing climate in Kashmir? Yes: 80.9%; No: 10.7%
So, if we are OK with these results, is there something to the results of other polls?
Internet polls are certainly not reflective of the “mood of the nation”, if there is anything like that. But the annus horrribilis which began with this poll put up by a “self-appointed spokesperson” seems to have been a good omen for the Congress.