In any democracy across the globe, the credibility of opinion polls is nothing short of a linchpin for informed decision-making. However, in Kenya, a troubling phenomenon has emerged - the rise of questionable opinion polls that not only jeopardise the accuracy of data but also cast a long, dark shadow over the very essence of democratic discourse.
Although some polling companies have carried out their research professionally, some few bad apples have opted to taint the image of pollsters.
Over the past month, Kenyans have found themselves inundated with a barrage of opinion polls, all purportedly evaluating the performance of county governments.
Some of these polls, with their controversial rankings of governors' performance, are especially perplexing considering that the majority of the county leaders have been in office for just a year. What's even more bewildering is that these suspect polls claim to assess governors based on their development records when their county budgets were approved merely two months ago.
In the midst of this labyrinth of deception, it is evident that unrealistic expectations are being placed upon governors. Is it genuinely feasible to expect miraculous feats within such a short time? It's crucial to remember that those who assumed office in August 2022 were initially working with their predecessors' budgets, and it wasn't until July this year that they began operating under their own budget cycle. It goes without saying that they should be evaluated based on the 2023/2024 budget, which only recently came into effect.
Delving deeper into the mechanics of these surveys, going by the parameters used in these polls, it can be assumed they are commissioned to produce a certain outcome. When an ambiguous question like what the approval rating of governors is based on their development record is put across all counties without basing it on specifics, it leaves a lot to be desired. According to the pollsters, the survey polled governor’s development ratings based on the respondents' perception of delivery on different devolved functions. Yet different counties have different priorities. For example, a county in Central Kenya might prioritise roads, but another in northern Kenya might choose water. Secondly, counties are not in any form of competition to be given the order of merit.
The most striking problem with these questionable opinion polls is their lack of data accuracy. Consider this: One governor might be hailed as the best performer in the country within a specific timeframe by one pollster, only to be labelled one of the worst performers by another within the same period. Such a vast disparity is nothing short of absurd! From a statistical standpoint, it becomes evident that having such significant variances in findings from different pollsters conducting surveys in the same region at the same time is highly improbable. These discrepancies point to a deep-rooted problem within the polling industry that must be addressed.
Truth is, some of these polls do not necessarily reflect the actual situation on the ground. One can even argue that the polls are designed to manipulate public perception to present a distorted and misleading narrative that serves hidden agendas. It seems the surveys are not driven by an honest quest for truth but by a sinister agenda to besmirch governors.
Perhaps even more disconcerting is the revelation some polls have become fertile ground for extortion. Some governors have publicly stated that some pollsters exploit the fear of negative public perception to extract money from them, further plunging the credibility of the polling industry into a seemingly bottomless abyss.
There is a need for accountability in the opinion poll space. Those responsible for rogue polls must be held to account for their actions not only erode trust in the democratic process but also leaders and governance.