It had to happen. Opinion polls, never known for their accuracy, have made a splash this year at Panjab University for the student elections by going online.
In previous years, campus reporters distributed forms on a small scale to collect feedback from students to get an idea of election trends on the campus. This time, leveraging social media network from Facebook to Instagram to other online platforms, the campus has thrown itself into online surveys.
PU Mirror, a campus media online portal, run by university and college students, published the results of one such pre-election poll on Monday. The team said they worked on 1,178 responses, of which 1,000 were online and the rest were from students not sporting party stickers.
This year, the student strength of Panjab University stands at 15,350 that is 300 less than in 2017. The online magazine has managed to tap into only 7.8 per cent of the student population. Also, in previous years, PU has had a less than impressive turnout on polling day with 62 per cent in 2017 and 67 per cent in 2016.
“We gave 70 per cent weightage to ground feedback and 30 per cent to online; we also ensured that a person can only vote once through their Gmail id,” said Dipesh, managing editor of PU Mirror, a student of DAV College, Sector 10, trying to make it sound very scientific. He added that they had never conducted an online poll before and it was a fairly new idea for student media outlets. “We make people fill complete forms online,” said Dipesh.
The forms question students on which party they support, what issues they want the council to take up, if they were satisfied with the previous student council’s performance and whether they were first-time voters.
However, online polls have left some cold. PU Pulse, another online campus portal, disagreed with the holding of online polls. “We have not yet conducted any pre-election poll. We’ll do it either on September 4 or 5 and we’ll do it manually,” said Madhur Girdher of PU Pulse. Girdher added that online polls were not accurate and on the ground, the story was different. Some students also echoed the same sentiment and said online polls could be trending but they never presented a clear picture of what was happening on the ground.
A hosteller, who did not want to be named, said, “This is a new trend this year. Too much social media and not just memes. Polls, opinions and all of that. Party supporters misuse such platforms and campus media should be more responsible than to spread negativity before election takes place.”
According to the poll by PU Mirror, for the presidential post, the alliance of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and SFPU is on top, followed by the alliance of Students Organisation of India (SOI) and NSUI.
Not surpsingly, ABVP presidential candidate Ashish Rana was enthusiastic. “I think it’s a fair measure at least to check the progress of our groundwork and it will give us a lot of positive energy.”
However, Ishaan Sharma, a leader of ABVP’s partner Students Federation of Panjab University (SFPU), was more circumpsect. “I think these are mere speculations, but any party will be happy if the trend is in their favour. However, I feel data for this poll came mainly from south campus and UIET.”
Those who do not support the alliance, however, are outright dismissive. “It’s slightly ridiculous to see that the SFPU has more votes than the SFS. On ground, it’s a completely different story. In fact, the SFS has a good chance of winning the presidential post this time because students have reposed faith in the party,” said a student.
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