IF you had a superpower, what would it be? I think more than a few of us would choose the ability to see into the future. Today we have so many fields based on predictions and forecasts – the stock market, weather, economics, and perhaps most pertinent to most of us – politics.
Elections don’t necessarily come to mind as the most relevant when discussing fortune telling – Back To The Future’s Biff Tannen did not get into that DeLorean to go place bets on who would be the future president or change the face of politics. So, you may be wondering, why bother trying to guess who’s going to win? What’s it matter? What do politics have to do with the development sector anyway?
In actuality, the development sector is closely linked to the government in that it is heavily dependent on the decisions the sitting government makes and the policies they implement.
This is sometimes due to changes in tax law that benefit the wealthy and corporations and threaten those living hand-to-mouth as well as those charitable organisations helping underserved populations. Other times issues erupt due to policy changes impacting the communities and constituents they support or cuts to government funding in favour of shifting focuses.
So how did we get on this path of predictions? Obviously, prophecies have been a way of life since the beginning of written history – we have records of prophets foretelling significant religious and cultural events for millennia.
Relying on these practices of old, India still makes use of the ancient tradition of astrology to predict the outcomes of such momentous events. And why not, when many families use astrology to determine the most auspicious day, month, year to make major life decisions from when and whom to wed to when to host an event.
It seems everyone has a prediction about the election – just none seem to be able to agree on a clear winner. A Varanasi astrologer claimed: “The current phase is extremely auspicious for PM Modi; however, after 14 May both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are going to do something massive.”
Others were more certain of a Modi win with one predicting: “From 15 April, a very auspicious time is going to come into PM Modi’s life. His stars are in his favour, and it will propel him towards victory.” While yet another astrologer declared that Rahul Gandhi will be the winner because “his party’s moon sign is Virgo”.
But the stars aren’t the only thing helping seers predict the outcome of this year’s elections. One mystic used oracle cards to foretell PM Modi’s “win [of] India’s general election this summer”. A clairvoyant also proclaimed Modi’s triumph due to his “extremely powerful aura”. A tarot reader and celebrity holistic reader stated: “When it comes to tarot cards, Modi is like the emperor or the magician where the power of self-knowledge, of spiritual balance, of karma is in perfection – Rahul Gandhi is more like the devil because he’s always confused.”
Yet others use a more terrestrial approach to forecasting a probable winner – opinion polling. The birth of modern Gallup polls began in 1936, ending the inaccurate straw polling of years past. However, if you don’t like what you’re hearing from these predictions, not to worry, they may be providing meaningless results as they are not actually scientifically significant.
- To begin with, you need a large enough sample size based on the population.
- Secondly, the participants must be random but with the caveat that anyone from the population could be selected – meaning a method must be used that doesn’t prevent certain populations from participating.
- Also, questions must be standardised but simple enough that all respondents comprehend them and can answer accurately.
- Finally, there shouldn’t be bias in interviewing the self-selected participants – that is, of the sample of respondents, those interviewed should match the corresponding characteristics of those who did not respond; thus, ensuring that no population is overlooked due to polling method.
While there can be some accurate predictions if this methodology is utilised, nothing is ever final until the last vote is counted. Here are some examples of times pollsters got it notoriously wrong.
- Trump. Leading election observers predicted a Hillary Clinton victory.
- Brexit. Who thought that would actually happen? Not pollsters.
- 2004 Lok Sabha exit polls / 2014 Lok Sabha pre-election opinion polls.
- Churchill. Remember the time he won the war but lost his job?
- Thomas Dewey. Who’s that? Not the winner of the 1948 US presidential election against President Harry Truman as predicted.
- Napoleon Bonaparte. He was elected? That he was, much to the surprise of France.
-by Micah Branaman Sharma