In an ideal situation, opinion polls are meant to be science driven processes whose results reflect the feelings of the larger population.
An opinion poll, often simply referred to as a poll or a survey, is a human research survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence intervals.
Opinion polling is an age old practice. The first known example of an opinion poll was a local straw poll conducted by The Aru Pennsylvanian in 1824, showing Andrew Jackson leading John Quincy Adams by 335 votes to 169 in the contest for the United States Presidency. Since Jackson won the popular vote in that state and the whole country, such straw votes gradually became more popular, but they remained local, usually citywide phenomena.
Since then, over time, opinion polls have become a popular feature world over, especially political opinion polling during elections.
Opinion polls have also made their way into Kenya.
There are many serious polls done in Kenya that make the science of research a great tool for planning. Those polls rarely go public, they are immersed in understanding patterns, collating info and informing policy.
Then there is the kind of political opinion polls that are released to try and influence public opinion and which have made opinion polling in Kenya a big joke.
Such gained prominence during the 2007 elections, spearheaded by then Steadman International research company, which later mutated into today’s IPSOS Synovate.
And today, as is their culture, IPSOS under Tom Wolf have once again released what they call results of a survey of Kenya’s public perception on corruption.
The latest so called survey by IPSOS, which attempts to rank the “most corrupt” Kenyans is not simply nonsensical but also a blatant insult to the science of opinion polling.
The latest IPSOS poll is not just petty but also proves how low the company has decided to sink. No wonder, opinion polls in Kenya have always flopped.
In 2007, Steadman International, IPSOS predecessor, in its last pre election opinion poll, predicted that opposition Raila Odinga was going to win the presidential race against incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and no matter how many arguments we have on this one, we all know that Raila lost to Kibaki. Yes, the ballot might have been distorted here and there but in an ideal free and fair situation, Kibaki narrowly won that poll.
In 2013, in the run up to the general elections, IPSOS predicted that no presidential candidate would secure the 50+1% win to guarantee him a win in the first round. As a matter of fact, IPSOS argued that Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee would get 44.80% while CORD coalition’s Raila Odinga would garner 44.40%. We all know that Uhuru Kenyatta won that race with 50.02% of the votes cast.
And the same pattern of failed and distorted predictions was repeated in 2017.
Point is, the new poll, which has its unique “most corrupt” six, coincidentally or otherwise akin to the Kapenguria Six or Ocampo Six, is the worst misrepresentation of facts we have come across in a long time.
Apparently, the study places Deputy President Ruto as number one followed by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Former President Moi, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Former President Mwai Kibaki and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga in that order.
Question is, how scientific was this research?
What criteria was used to identify respondents? Each poll should be able to reveal status.
Can IPSOS describe each respondent and publish how one person was not chosen and the other picked?
What is the motive of the poll?
Who funds IPSOS?
Get me right. I am not saying opinion polling is bad; but cooking data is. IPSOS are good at market research. However, their political polls have left a lot to be desired.
The methodology used vis-a-vis the political ethnic environment they operate has meant that they have consistently got it wrong, especially when it comes to presidential polls.
When their inconsistencies are pointed, Tom Wolf, quickly hides behind margin of errors.
A Gallup poll in 2007 exposed the extent of cooking done locally with polls. But as they say, he who pays the piper, calls the tune.
That said polls have done little to shape elections in this country.
Finally, there was once something called the Kroll Report. It named actual corrupt people and figures. So did the Goldenberg report.
Unfortunately, we have chosen to hype perceptions compiled in the dim backrooms of political lack of strategy.
We have 1.5 billion stolen and buying some land in Ruaraka and its all on a Parliamentary report.
But hey, let’s go for some perception report where respondents are not even described; where the research criteria of choice is not disclosed.
The fight against corruption must be won for our country to see the future. We must support efforts to ensure no one dips their hand in the till. We must.
But as we do that, we must resist the temptation to politicize the war on corruption or even personalize it.
The Judiciary should dedicate a court to listen to cases continuously everyday so as to quickly conclude cases, as it is now we are taking too long.