Researchers have been carrying out exit polls in Kenya since 2007, with an aim of explaining voting patterns and reasons voters give for voting particular candidates. The first exit poll was done in 2007, another one was done during 2013 general elections and the latest during the 2017 elections.

An election exit poll is one that is conducted immediately after voters have exited the polling stations with an objective of finding out how the respondents voted but more specifically, understand respondents demographics, voters experience at the polling centre, main reasons why they voted for a particular candidate and understand when they made a decision to vote for their favorite candidates.

2017 elections

Standard Group and TIFA on August 8, 2017 conducted an exit poll covering seven counties; Nairobi, Kajiado, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Bomet, Kisii and Meru.

Results of TIFA research showed that most voters in Nairobi County considered Development agenda, desire for change, ethnicity and manifesto during voting the 2017 General Elections. The voters wanted the president to address unemployment, cost of living, corruption and crime/terrorism immediately after elections. Out of the 609 respondents in Nairobi, first time voters were 26%.

Majority of the voters arrived at polling stations as from 4.00am to 7.00am, where most of them ended up spending up to 4 hours before voting.

87% of voters said there will be peace after elections, 10% said peace unlikely, 1% refused to answer while 4% didn’t know.

In Meru County, voters want president to address issues of education, corruption and unemployment immediately after elections

Cost of living, education and unemployment are key issues voters in Kisii County said president should address immediately after elections.

2013 elections

James D. Long, Karuti Kanyinga, Karen E. Ferree, and Clark Gibson published an exit poll on Kenya’s 2013 General Elections. In their survey, 6258 respondents were interviewed.

Data from the exit poll shows that election day was largely peaceful in the face of long waits at polling stations and the breakdown of electronic voter-identification kits, which forced election officials to use paper copies of the voter registry.

Early in the process, Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) showed large lead over Raila Odinga (CORD), sometimes inspiring early celebrations among Jubilee supporters.

According to the researchers, IEBC results surprised many since pre-election polls showed the candidates in a dead heat, with neither garnering enough of the vote to avoid a runoff. The final pre-election tracking survey published by Ipsos two weeks before the election showed a statistical tie, with Uhuru’s share at 44.8 percent and Raila at 44.4 percent.

According to the exit poll, Raila Odinga was to get 40.9 percent of the votes, Uhuru Kenyatta 40.6, Mudavadi 3.74, Kenneth 1.67, Ole Kiyapi 0.09, Karua 0.69, Muite 0.02, Dida 0.43, but actual IEBC results were as follows: Raila Odinga 43.31 percent, Uhuru Kenyatta 50.07, Mudavadi 3.93, Kenneth 0.59, Ole Kiyapi 0.33,  Karua 0.36, Muite 0.10, Dida 0.43.

More than 40 percent of CATI survey respondents thought Uhuru and Ruto should face trial at The Hague, and around 25 percent thought they should be tried in Kenya; these percentages stayed steady over the course of the campaign.

Nonetheless, in a nationwide exit poll of 6,258 voters conducted on election day, only 3.3 percent of those surveyed listed the ICC as the deciding issue for their vote. Uhuru and Ruto were also adept at mobilizing voters in their home areas, and the exit poll suggests that there was substantial voter intimidation. When asked “in your area, how often are people like you intimidated to vote for certain candidates?” nearly 26 percent answered “sometimes or always.”

Kenyans seemed to hope for peace in 2013, to an extent that many voters were willing, if necessary, to sacrifice having a fair electoral result in order to ensure peace. Voters were asked whether they thought that it was more important to preserve peace, even if the wrong person were declared the winner. 85 percent of respondents said yes, compared to only 13 percent who thought it was more important to declare the rightful winner, even at the risk of conflict.

2007 elections

Clark C. Gibson and James D. Long in the Department of Political Science, University of California, (USA) carried out an exit poll on the presidential and parliamentary elections in Kenya, December 2007.

According to the exit poll, delay by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) in announcing the results incited serious unrest in the country. ODM candidate Raila Odinga had taken an early lead on the first day of counting, but incumbent President Mwai Kibaki erased that margin and went on to win by 2%.

The hasty inauguration of Kibaki on 30 December, and claims of vote rigging, fostered violence throughout the country. The fighting resulted in nearly 1200 deaths, 500,000 displaced persons, and the widespread destruction of land and property. Mediation efforts by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, led to a power-sharing coalition government in February, 2008 leaving Kibaki with the presidency while creating the post of Prime Minister for Odinga.

Independent analyses and the work of the Independent Review Commission to study the election revealed deep flaws in the vote tally process, undermining the credibility of the ECK’s official results.

The exit poll had given Raila Odinga 46.1 percent, Mwai Kibaki 40.2, Kalonzo Musyoka 10.2, others/spoilt 3.5 but the actual ECK results were as follows:  Raila 44.1, Kibaki 46.4, Kalonzo 8.9, others 0.6.

The exit poll also sought to uncover the determinants of Kenyans’ vote in the presidential election, especially how government performance, campaign issues, and ethnicity impacted their choices.

While Kibaki’s voters had positive evaluations of the nation’s economy, a majority still had negative evaluations of their family’s economic situation, but to a lesser degree than opposition supporters.

Odinga’s and Musyoka’s voters gave mostly negative ratings whilst Kibaki’s voters thought the government had done an excellent or good job.

In assessing voters’ desire for change, respondents were asked whether it was more important for candidates to have experience or new ideas.