The latest opinion poll research in Kenya, or to be more precise, the latest analysis of recent opinion polls by a leading research consultant, suggests that some of you might not be telling the truth when asked about the next election. So what? Well it could have serious consequences.
POLL RESULTS vs FACTS
Mr Tom Wolf, a senior research consultant often called in by the polling company Ipsos Synovate to give his considered opinion, has come across certain discrepancies when opinion poll results as set against known facts.
The Kenya Forum has expressed before our concern that polling companies did not reveal whether the voters they questioned were indeed registered to vote but our concerns were allayed when in the most recent poll by Ipsos Synovate they declared that all respondents were registered voters.
It now appears that this may not have been the case as polling companies have not asked for proof of registration when questioning people, they have just asked, “Are you a registered voter?” and if the respondent says “Yes” then proceeded with survey.
63 PER CENT REGISTERED TO VOTE
Tom Wolf, as reported in The Star, has noticed that 95% of people approached by polling companies say that they are registered, whereas the true figure of registered voters is something like 63% of those eligible to vote (14.3 million out of an eligible 22.5 million adults): that’s the ‘hard fact’ Wolf was referring to.
Wolf puts this anomaly down to the possibility that “Kenyans do not generally like to come out honest on such matters. They always want to be on the correct side of history”. [Kenya Forum readers, discuss!]
This slight disconnect between what respondents say and reality has happened before, says Tom Wolf. In 2002, some 69% of registered voters actually turned out on polling day but asked after the election whether they had voted or not, 92% of respondents declared that they had.
TURNOUT FIGURES DON’T ADD UP
A roughly 70% turnout of voters in an election is about par for the course in many modern democratic elections but that brings us to another of Tom Wolf’s musings.
The most recent Ipsos Synovate poll found 84% of respondents saying they would vote “no matter what” and another 10% saying they would “probably vote”. That would suggest a turnout of up to 94% of voters come the election when the reality is that figure will be 70% or below.
“Kenyans do not generally like to come out honest on such matters. They always want to be on the correct side of history”
DOES IT MATTER?
Does this all matter? Wolf says not much and that the overall impact of some opinion poll respondents lying is “statistically insignificant” and does not affect “the credibility of the polls generally”. The Kenya Forum thinks otherwise.
The Forum has heard from campaign operatives that the usually relatively well organized ODM/Cord camp did not get their act together when it came to getting their supporters registered for this election and that the TNA/Jubilee side did (or at least more so).
Now add into the equation that up to one in five respondents questioned in opinion polls, if Tom Wolf is right, are either not registered to vote or being less than truthful about their propensity to vote.
Where does that leave us?
WIN THE OPINION POLL, LOSE THE ELECTION?
Opinion polls currently show Raila Odinga ahead of Uhuru Kenyatta in the race for Kenya’s presidency but possibly not by much if it is a two round election. If Odinga’s supporters are less likely to be registered than those of his opponent that may well result in the tally of votes on election day being at odds with published opinion polls.
Again, does that matter? Yes is does says the Kenya Forum, or at least it could.
EXPECTATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT
The danger lies in the discrepancy between perceptions, expectations and reality.
If Raila Odinga’s supporters go into polling day expecting their man to win by, say, 52% to 48% over Kenyatta on the basis of opinion polls, and he doesn’t win because too many of his supporters were not registered, then there is a danger of anger arising out of disappointment and all that can go with it.
Polling companies must ensure they question genuine registered voters. The politicians must cut the, “We’ll win if they don’t steal it from us” line.