The story behind the exit poll that CNN-IBN commissioned but didn’t use

The story behind the exit poll that CNN-IBN commissioned but didn’t use

The truth may not be as sensational.

By Arunabh Saikia

Published on :

Another day, another controversy. Of course, it started on Twitter.

This one began when journalist Sagarika Ghose tweeted out that a “news channel” didn’t telecast an exit poll it had sponsored because it didn’t agree with the results.  “Sponsored journalism,” she claimed.

It is unlikely she didn’t remember the name of the “news channel”, for the news channel, it soon became clear, was CNN-IBN: the channel Ghose was Deputy Editor with till last year.

Last night, when almost every news channel except NDTV (NDTV will show its exit polls tonight) telecast its own exits polls on the recently-concluded Bihar elections, CNN-IBN played it safe by telecasting something called the “poll of polls”, based on all the other exit polls. Curiously, though, they had even run promos of their own exit poll conducted by the agency, Axis Ad-Print-Media.

So what happened?  Why did CNN-IBN choose not to telecast its own exit polls, when it had even commissioned an external agency for the same? The most delicious conspiracy theory, which has found much currency on social media, is that the Reliance-owned channel didn’t telecast the exit polls because it predicted a landslide majority for the JD(U)-led Mahagathbandhan.   But to trust Twitter’s conspiracy theories is not always the brightest of ideas as we learnt yesterday from the Irfan Habib son-in-law (who was not) fiasco.

The truth, this time too, may not be as sensational.

According to a highly placed source in the channel, the channel decided to not go ahead with the exit polls because some of the finding appeared off. “The polls predicted BJP’s victory in Nitish Kumar’s backyard – a JD(U) stronghold. There were many other inconsistencies that we were not totally convinced by.” The source also told Newslaundry that when the channel asked the agency to share the raw data of the survey with it, it refused.  “The gossip about us being pressured to kills the polls is not true at all. If that was the case, why would we have carried the pre-poll opinion polls, which too were against the BJP,” said the source. According to another source in the newsroom, Axis Ad-Print-Media wanted the channel to carry too many disclaimers, which the editorial board thought, would have nullified the point of the exit polls.

For the record, CNN-IBN did carry pre-election opinion polls carried out by the same agency. The opinion polls, too, had predicted a clear majority for the JD(U)-led coalition.

Axis Ad-Print-Media did put out the results of the exit polls on its website, but soon removed it.

It is a curious move on the organisation’s part, because even if CNN-IBN was unconvinced about the findings, there’s no reason why Axis shouldn’t display it on their own website. Unless, of course, there’s a contractual obligation that prevents them from doing so.

When contacted by Newslaundry, an official of the organisation confirmed that it had been commissioned by CNN-IBN to carry out exit polls. The official, though, refused to comment on any specific query. The story will be updated if and when we receive a response from the organisation.

Just in case, you’re wondering: CNN-IBN has already paid Axis Ad-Print-Media for the exit polls. Clearly, not an investment the channel’s owner would be proud of.