Even for a dipstick survey on Twitter, Chetan might want to learn a lesson or two about research methods.

Manufacturing consent Chetan Bhagat gives an object lesson in how not to conduct an opinion pollFacebook/Chetan Bhagat
Voices Social Media Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 19:34

If there’s one thing the nation loves Chetan Bhagat for, it’s the detailed, rigorous research he carries out for every word he writes.

When he was writing his novel “One Indian Girl”, the best-selling author famously got himself waxed to understand how women think. And now, Chetan is trying to outdo the country’s legion of psephologists and political commentators with data gathered through his Twitter account.

On Monday, the man who made every Indian man want to join an IIT, took to Twitter to ask all Indians (who take the time to follow and respond to his tweets) just how much they valued democracy. “If u had a choice of keeping Modi as our leader but with less democracy, would u be ok with it?” he asked, letting voters choose between, “Yes, want Modi as leader” and “No, democracy important”.

For those who might have objected that the term “less democracy” is far too vague, Chetan then clarified his point in the next poll. “Hypothetically, if Modi wanted to declare emergency for a while to totally eradicate corruption and punish corrupt, will you support him?” he asked.

The results were so overwhelming that the author was, in his own words, “stunned at the results”.

Chetan promptly took the chance to educate people on the dangers of such a strong devotion to any one man.

In tweets following the two polls, Chetan declared that, people are ready to give up democracy either because “we do not value what we have”, or “people don’t understand what it means”.  “The land of gurus and babas loves its messiahs. Much easier to follow than accept the chaos and multiple viewpoints of democracy,” he declared stridently.

And finally, he assumed the role of a conscience-keeper, restating his firm commitment to democracy.  

Nitpickers might want to tell Chetan a thing or two about survey design and the problems of asking leading questions. After all, social scientists spend years learning how to ask the right questions so their own opinions do not have the slightest effect on the kind of opinions they get from their respondents.

They also take the effort to lay down clear defining metrics for terms like democracy and corruption. Without such metrics, these terms are like the boggarts in Harry Potter, taking on whatever form best suits your individual preferences.

And finally, when talking about large and complicated ideas like democracy, they try their hardest to make sure that their questions don’t wrongly club together elements that don’t belong together or falsely set up an opposition between things that are not really so.

Of course, Chetan might argue, a dipstick survey on Twitter shouldn’t be treated with so much seriousness. But, by his own admission, the author thinks such a poll can be the basis of a column that would get read by thousands across the country. We only wonder what such a column might say between the lines.

Note: Views expressed are personal opinions of the author.