Power and Limitations of Opinion Polls

Abstract: How can obtaining opinion of, say 30,000 voters be sufficient to predict the outcome of an election in a country with over 70 Crore voters? Do the opinion polls conducted say a month before the election accurately predict what is to happen on the voting day? We will address such questions and show that simple mathematics and statistics, lots of common sense and a good understanding of the ground reality or domain knowledge together can yield very good forecast or predictions of the outcome of elections based on opinion polls and exit polls. I will share my own experiences with opinion polls and exit polls over last 18 years.

About the Speaker : Professor Rajeeva L Karandikar obtained his Ph. D. at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata in 1981. He spent some years as a visiting professor in USA and returned to the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi in 1984. He became a full professor in 1989 and served as Head of department of Mathematics and Statistics at the Institute and also as Head of the Delhi Centre of the Institute. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in USA and Europe. In 2006, he moved to Cranes Software International Limited as Executive Vice President - Analytics. In 2010, he returned to Academics and became Distinguished Professor at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. He is now the Director of Chennai Mathematical Institute, Chennai, India. Prof. Karandikar has made significant contributions to various areas including Stochastic Calculus, Filtering theory, Markov processes and martingale problems, limit theorems, Monte Carlo techniques, queuing theory, game theory, theory of option pricing. He has authored two books with Professor G Kallianpur, one on filtering theory and one on option pricing. He is a fellow of Indian National Science Academy and Indian Academy of sciences and has been awarded the young scientist medal by Indian National Science Academy (1985), S S Bhatnagar prize by Council of Industrial and scientific research (1999), C R Rao National award in statistics by Government of India (2000) and P C Mahalanobis Gold Medal by Indian Science Congress (2014). Prof. Karandikar has been an Editor of Sankhya and on the editorial boards of Annals of Probability and Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference. Prof. Karandikar has been involved in numerous consultancy projects over the years. He has worked on development of proprietary Blockcipher algorithms for Indian defence services. Prof. Karandikar has been involved with opinion polls and exit polls in India since 1998. He has worked with India Today, Doordarshan, T V Today (Aaj Tak) during 1998-2005. From 2005 November till May 2014, he had been associated with CNN-IBN for opinion polls. Currently he is associated with ABP news.