Bandwagon Effect: Do Opinion/Exit Polls Influence a Voter’s Behaviour?

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Exit Polls

The latest technology incorporated by the news media platform, exit polls, are nothing but a predicting medium to estimate the results of elections ahead of the voting. Gone is the era when the media concentrated on the key precincts and political journalists who predicted comparing the known voting pattern and strategies as that of the earlier elections. With the advent of exit polling system isn’t entirely different from earlier. What becomes different with the newer technology is that the public opinion polls are far more accurate as well as faster since data gets collected and analyzed with the progressing election.

There’s a little doubt that the politicians are influenced by the opinion polls. Therefore, despite having said that he or she isn’t interested at the polls, they check the results which might declare the predecessor reign as the winner of the election. A knife-edge election is termed only when the election contests are tight. From journalists to reporters, everyone interested in the results always keeps an eye on the polls. There are multiple opinion polls that get published during an election campaign. And when people punter hears or sees the estimates, they apparently believe that the punters are evenly split on the voting intentions. The impact of a political opinion or exit poll on every individual voter is thus a complex matter. The polls’ accuracy has become a serious debate now. This is due to the problems given of the access to the voters for comment.

An Introduction to the Bandwagon Effect

A bandwagon effect is an effect where voters who think a particular party which is winning the election would eventually win. But this is not because of the thought process of the voters. Instead, the party wins the election because voters end up voting for that party due to their earlier predictions. The political parties now make the best use of the Internet and social media platforms. And if the social and media environment gives an impression that the election is won already ahead of decisions, then the bandwagon effect becomes stronger. In addition, its effect becomes greater. There are countries imposing an election silence which can halt the polling. This is because of the belief that the bandwagon effect might tilt the process of democracy. Therefore, the countries also ban publications of polling results beforehand.

How is the Bandwagon effect played out?

The thing about bandwagon effect and contagion are that they aren’t simple phenomena. There comes a range of variables which are at play during the election. One of them happens to be that the assumptions of the voters aren’t most advanced. Two forms of effects that are justifiably essential are contagion and strategic voting. While the intention of voters motivates strategic voting, it also affects which particular political party would win the elections. On the contrary, contagion is the move of the voters to the perceived view from the majority. Below, mentions an example of how the behavior of voters would become more complex than under bandwagon effect under a strategic situation.

For instance, Voter X and Voter Y are thinking that their preferred candidate would get the fewest votes. While Voter X happens to be a strategic voter, Voter Y is a voter affected by the bandwagon effect. As a matter of fact, both the voters would vote for the candidate whom they prioritize right after their most preferred candidate. But this is when their ballots are perceived as crucial in the constituency like in case of a second-preferred candidate who is expected to win the election by a slim margin. If the voters believe that the ballots are trivial, then the Voter Y might tend to vote for the candidate who is expected to win the election. Though the most preferred candidate doesn’t have the chance of winning the election, he or she will still vote for the candidate. But one vote will not have a change in the result.

A candidate or party who is doing drastically bad in the opinion polls might be represented in the news as well as commentary. These interestingly don’t appear to be the underdog effect in the elections. There’s just a little known about the underdog effect. According to the surveys of public opinion polls, bandwagon or contagion effects are identified in abundance.

Polls vs. Betting – Are They Similar?

When media and the public opinion polls support one single political party over another party, there’s little doubt on the inclusion of a contagion effect. As a matter of fact, the sports betting happen to be a familiar type of betting with a contagion effect. And the psychology in betting is quite similar to the election’s psychology. Sports better nonetheless has been expanded a step further with the certain psychological aspects. This is done by the declaration of election winners ahead of the election.

As a matter of fact, the political opinion polls aren’t an accurate reflection of what the public opinion indicates. But, political opinion polls do have its shares of effects on the voters’ intentions. It also has impacts on the ones who are trying to influence the elections’ plausible outcomes.

A strategic vote is a vote cast for a particular political party which isn’t the preferred one. It is, in fact, motivated by the intentions of the voters that results in affecting the outcome of the election. As a matter of fact, there are possibilities of a poll affecting strategic considerations. This is due to the fact that the latter is based upon expectations pertaining to the outcome of the elections. Polls also affect expectations pertaining to the preference as well as evaluations. In such a scenario, voters end up evaluating parties with a positive impact when the chances of winning are high. They evaluate political parties in a negative way when the possibilities are slim for the political party to get a favorable outcome.

The impact of public opinion polls depends on the visibility to a great extent. Thus, a promising political consulting firm like would help voters in a significant manner.

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Nirmalya Ghosh
Nirmalya has done his post graduate in business administration and now working as digital marketing executive in a US based firm. He loves to share the trending news and incidents with his readers. Follow him in Facebook or Twitter.