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Opinion poll firm Ipsos on the spot for diverting Kenyans' attention

By Moses Michira | Published Fri, December 23rd 2016 at 09:00, Updated December 23rd 2016 at 10:59 GMT +3
Ipsos boss Tom Wolf when he released poll findings in Nairobi on Wednesday. [PHOTO: EDWARD KIPLIMO/Standard]

At the height of a teachers’ strike that crippled learning in all schools for over a month, opinion poll firm Ipsos reported Uhuru Kenyatta’s approval ratings at 75 per cent.

Major disruptions followed the industrial action by teachers, forcing the State to order early closure of all schools on September 19 last year.

The President fared two times better than his main rival Raila Odinga, in increasingly questionable poll findings that are wittily released whenever the Government is under immense pressure.

It came as no surprise then when Ipsos boss Tom Wolf released new figures on Wednesday, showing that half of Kenyans would vote to re-elect Uhuru were polls to be called today.

“Do not underrate the power of incumbency because it is a very powerful tool,” Mr Wolf said in justifying his firm’s findings, coming in the fourth week of a nationwide doctors’ strike.

Raila’s backing had shrunk to 22 per cent, Wolf reported, adding that President Kenyatta was most popular in western Kenya – with five times the approval Musalia Mudavadi received.

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Reacting to the poll yesterday, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka accused Ipsos of manufacturing figures to manipulate the minds of Kenyans ahead of next year’s elections.


The former vice president warned of unspecified consequences against survey firms being used to portray certain candidates as popular.

Speaking in Nairobi on Wednesday night when he launched his autobiography, ‘Against All Odds’, Kalonzo said the Opposition would not entertain further deceit by the pollsters.

He rubbished the latest polls that put Uhuru ahead by 50 per cent against Raila’s 22 per cent. The survey placed Kalonzo a distant third with a paltry 2 per cent of national support.

The latest favourable rating for Uhuru comes even as the country faces a health crisis after medics downed their tools to press for better pay and working conditions.

But before the doctors went on strike, Ipsos had released another finding in August, when the pollster asked if Raila should retire from politics.

In its findings announced by Wolf in early August, 34 per cent of Kenyans were reportedly in favour of having the Opposition leader bow out to allow someone else in the Opposition to challenge Uhuru in 2017.

Forty-one per cent of the respondents in the Ipsos survey felt that the President scored highly in building the economy, and that he should do a little more to fight corruption.

The polls came in the midst of nationwide fury among teachers and parents as hundreds of schools went up in flames in an unexplained wave of arson.


A major standoff between Jubilee and the Opposition was also brewing on the fate of top brass at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Jubilee was strongly in favour of the outgoing commissioners, while the Opposition pushed for their replacement.

And in November last year, former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru resigned citing poor health after sustained pressure from the Opposition regarding her possible involvement in the Sh1.6 billion National Youth Service scandal.

With so much pressure on the Government, Ipsos released findings on Christmas Eve showing that most Kenyans wanted Raila to retire from politics.

Earlier in May last year, another opinion poll conducted by Ipsos placed Uhuru ahead of Raila by a 12 per cent margin. Deputy President William Ruto and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto had fallen out, prompting major concern as the South Rift region is viewed as being critical in the re-election bid of Jubilee Party and Uhuru Kenyatta.

The duel between the Rutos has only got worse since, prompting other leaders from the Kalenjin community to push for reconciliation, which has not come through yet.

Around the same time in May, pressure was piling over the Government’s handling of corruption, following the suspension of several senior officials including five Cabinet secretaries.

Uhuru even accused the media of spreading propaganda against his Government, relating to ‘imaginary’ corruption scandals that were however later confirmed as true.

Ipsos surveys have drawn strong criticism from ordinary folk, with many expressing anger against the findings and timings.

One Twitter post said: “Oh, another perfectly timed @IpsosKe opinion poll released. That tells you there is fire under Muthamaki’s seat”.

Muthamaki is the Kikuyu word for king and is often fondly used to refer to Uhuru.

 Additional reporting by Moses Nyamori

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