Saturday, 16 February 2013

Why I will Ignore Opinion Polls in Kenya Elections 2013

The reason why I am not going to  listen to opinion polls on the elections 2013 is simple - because I took part in one a couple of weeks ago and if that is how they are conducted then opinion polls on elections are a sham.

I am being specific that opinion polls on elections are a sham because I have taken part in opinion polls on other issues such as most popular TV station and one on Men and Women relationship from the same research company and I think the research on these others was well conducted. The particular one I did on elections went a little bit like this...

Me: John, hello

Researcher: Hello, good morning my name is XXXX  from Ipsos Synovate can I take up a few seconds of your time to take part in a (I forget what she said it was)

(NB: Just so we are clear I think Ipsos Synovate is one of the best research companies we have in Kenya - if it had been any of the others I would have told her no... I don't have time and I would have hung up)

Me: Yes, sure a few seconds is okay.

Researcher: Thank you. So my first question is what is the major problem facing Nairobi at the moment.

Me: Well, I would say planning and management. See if there was good management of the city's resources we would not have drainage problems or water problems, traffic problems or most other problems. If there was proper policy on basic welfare then Nairobians would have less to worry about on education, health, shelter and food and people would use whatever earnings they had to get themselves out of the cycle of poverty and if these earnings were sufficient then levels of crime or the desperation that makes some of us criminals would be less.

Researcher: In the race for Nairobi Governor we have Ferdinand Waititu, Jimnah Mbaru, Dr. Evans Kidero, Phillip Khisia. Who among these do you think is able to solve Nairobi's problems

Me: There is no one else running apart from these ones?

Researcher: No

Me: Oh, okay ....based on my earlier answer I think Jimnah would make a better manager than the others, Khisia did a good job as town clerk and Kidero was a good manager for Mumias but I think Jimnah has done better in the corporate world in investments and business and he would make a good manager for the county.

Problem No 1: The researcher does not make it an open question as to who I think would solve Nairobi's problems she limits my choice to four individuals and also "lies" that there is no one else running for the gubernatorial race.
Of course I have since decided to vote for a 27 year old accountant Geoffrey Kobia who is running for governor. 

Why am I voting for Geoffrey - he's younger than me and I think Kenyans should realize that this generation of young people who have grown up with modern day problems such as unemployment, poverty and are exposed to the fast changing technology and the new global village the world has become are the key to solving them. Think of it a little bit like immunization (once you are exposed to the germs your body is equipped to handle the disease)

Geoffrey Kobia 27 year old aspiring to be Nairobi governor

Researcher: Who best do you think would solve Nairobi's ethnicity problems

Me: I think only Nairobians can solve this problem. You see this is an individual mindset I can't expect a leader to help me solve my own problems on how I think. I also think Kenyans should stop expecting leaders to solve all problems for them. The leader is supposed to implement structure and policy and create an environment where whatever occupation I am engaged in I can eke out a living for my dependents, I can get out of poverty and improve my living standards. I can't expect a leader to do these things for me...but I can expect them to make laws which allow me access to welfare if I need it if I can''t meet my basic needs. I expect them to have good fiscal policies that allow low income earners to keep more of their money to help themselves and also to access basic needs like food.

Researcher: Okay, so can I go back to my question

Me: Yes, I am sorry.

Researcher: No, its okay you were just giving your opinion. So who do you think among these leaders can solve Nairobi's ethnicity problems?

Me: None of them. I think Nairobians should change their own mindset.

Researcher: Which of these leaders do you think is able to have the most impact in managing Nairobi county's new budget and to increase trade and investment.

Me: Jimnah Mbaru

Problem: My answer was based on the limited selection she offered me. Of course you now know I believe Geoffrey Kobia while not as experienced as Jimnah can do as good a job

Researcher: Okay, so I am going to mention each of their names and you will tell me what is good and what is bad about them.

Me: Okay.

Researcher: Ferdinand Waititu

Me: I think he's okay. He is really a man of the people totally at the grassroots and understands people's problems. I have nothing against him.

Researcher: Okay, Jimnah Mbaru

Me: He is really done well in trade and in building up wealth you know with Trans Century and the like.

Researcher: Bad points

Me: Well I think he is a little bourgeoisie

Researcher: He is what?

Me: Bourgeoisie know like a man of certain class not in touch with the people down here.

Researcher: Oh, okay. Dr. Kidero

Me: Oh he is fine I think he did a good job at Mumias but just like Jimnah he needs to be in touch with Nairobi's more poor population

Researcher: Phillip Khisia

Me: I think he did a great job you know with the beautification of Nairobi. I have nothing personal against him. But you know he will always have to carry the reputation of Nairobi City Council around with him.

Researcher: Okay, now in the race for Nairobi Senator we have Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Gideon Mike Sonko who would you vote for?

Me: Is there no one else running?

Researcher: No

Problem: The researcher again lies that there is no one else running 
(Of course there is a bunch of other people including ex Mungiki Maina Njenga, Bishop Bonifes Adoyo etc)

Me: Well these two are pretty much alike they are very much at the grassroots know like if the hawkers are striking you will find Bishop Margaret there in the mix...if it is matatu's on strike you will find Sonko working to ferry people to work. So there is pretty little to choose between them ...very much touch and go

Researcher: If you were at the ballot now who would you vote for

Me: (laugh) that's a difficult one. Margaret is a woman ...I am a great believer in empowering women so I might vote for her. Sonko is young ...I really would like a younger generation of leaders....mmmhhh let me see - okay for today I will go with Bishop Margaret ...but if you call me tomorrow or on the day of voting I will probably vote for Mike Sonko it is really touch and go between them.

Researcher: So Bishop Margaret?

Me: Yes, for today

Researcher: With the same two  Margaret Wanjiru and Mike Sonko what would you say are good and bad points for each. Mike Sonko

Me: I have no bad points against him. I really like the way he stays true to his character. He is really interesting

Researcher: Margaret

Me: Well like I said her and Sonko are really people persons. I like that about both of them. For Margaret I have only an issue with the fact that she didn't take time to improve her education credentials and was content with an honorary doctorate during her five years in parliament....unlike some of her counterparts who went back to school ....otherwise I think she is okay.

Researcher: Okay, for women representative we have Rachel Shebesh and Cynthia (I can't remember the name she said)

Me: Cynthia who?

Researcher: Cynthia (again I can't remember the name)

Me: Well, I know Rachel this other one I don't ...but wait there are other people running for this position.

Researcher: No, we have these two.

Me: No, I wasn't asking ....I am saying I know there other people running for this position. I know there is a Tabitha Wanjira on a Narc Kenya ticket and quite a few other people.

Researcher: Well these are the front runners the most popular ones.

Me: No but how do you decide who are the front runners. I thought you wanted to know from me who I am voting for ...I don't vote for front runners or popular candidates I vote for people I think we can sit down and have a conversation and a meeting of ideas on how to run a country.

Problem: The researcher lies that there are no other candidates ...only this time she is not able to get away with it because I happen to know the existence of other candidates.

Of course I have since decided I am voting for Esther Passaris ...I am really surprised in Synovate's Opinion she didn't rank as popular....she is the woman who made Nairobi come to light ...if you lived in Nairobi before 2002 you knew there were some hours of the night you had to walk in the middle of the road because you preferred being hit by car than mugged in the dark.

Seriously if Esther Passaris was running for Senator or Governor she is a woman I would vote for. But in Synovate's opinion - she didn't rank as popular. You know if they already had an opinion why ask for mine.

Esther Passaris Nairobi County Women Representative

 Researcher: Oh, okay so between these two who would you vote for

Me: None

Researcher: Oh, okay so do you have any good points and bad points for the two. Rachel

Me: I think she is okay. She is very outspoken and I like that about her.

Researcher: The other one you said you don't know anything about her.

Me: No, I don't know her.

Researcher: Okay so for presidential candidate and running mate. Who will you vote for

Me: Martha Karua and her running mate

Researcher: Augustine Lotodo?

Me: Yes

Researcher: Why

Me: Well for me I think Martha is someone who shares my ideas of what I want Kenya to be you know we can sit down and have a conversation and common ideas on welfare...I think she is honest and straightforward.
Martha Karua President of Kenya aspirant

Researcher: Okay, thank you for your time

Me: That took more than a few seconds...

Researcher: Yes, but you see I had to listen to your opinion I couldn't cut you short or limit you to my questions

Me: Yes, okay thank you.

Researcher: A few questions about yourself. Do you live in Nairobi county

Me: Yes. I live in .....

Researcher: Your telephone number

Me: 073...

Researcher: What is your ethnicity

Me: Well I don't ascribe to any. I am not fluent in any mother tongue .... I am mixed Kalenjin and Meru I prefer to think of myself as Kenyan or Nairobian.

Researcher: Your name

Me: John Paul

Researcher: Okay. Thank you for your time. Have a good day.

Me: You too.

So what do I think opinion poll companies should do is ...when they release their poll results they should also provide a sample questionnaire that was used.

If they don't I am going to treat every opinion poll I hear about with disregard because the questions are not open ...they lead the respondent to make certain choices and limit their scope to those choices.

Like I said I think Ipsos Synovate is the one of the best market research company in the market and how this particular opinion poll was conducted disappointed me.
 Other opinion polls I don't even pay attention to ...they are a sham from the outset for example the one by Consumer Insight on the Presidential Debate.

You know am not saying Mohammed Abduba Dida is going to beat Raila Odinga at the ballot box or pull greater numbers at a public rally but I dare say the leader for Alliance for Real Change makes a better debater than the latter.

Here is the full video with Linus Kaikai and Julie Gichuru


So here is my opinion poll on the presidential debate. Martha Karua was the most practical, most genuine and the only candidate who displayed a proper understanding of issues facing Kenyans with ideas for welfare, a proper understanding of her party Narc Kenya ideology (Social Democrats) and a great insight on what are the mistakes done in the past and what is needed going forward in the future.

Note I am not saying ignore economic surveys or Kenya Demographic Surveys ...or other serious studies done by market research companies and Public Policy Research companies or our universities. All I am saying is if this is how opinion polls are conducted then the only "Opinion Poll" I will not doubt is the one where we take a piece of paper called a ballot and vote for our candidate in a poll called an election.

Something else we should take out of our mindset is this I told a couple of friends about my voting intentions and someone said "Kupigia Martha ni kutupa kura yako hawezi shinda" which translates to "If you vote for Martha it is a wasted effort she cannot win".
In my opinion if you vote for someone you believe you share ideals with, someone who has the same ideas on public expenditure as you do and the same aspirations for your country - then you have used your vote well. Even if you are the only one voting for this candidate.

However if you vote for a candidate so that you are part of a winning bandwagon then even before you go to the ballot you have lost "umetupa kura yako" "you have wasted your vote" because the electoral process is not about winners and losers like a football match - it is about your life your tax money will be used, how much help you can get from your government to meet basic needs if they are out of your reach (welfare)... how your ideals and ideas are implemented as policy.

But that is my opinion ...what's yours?

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Loving life and living it. “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
Give yourself completely in everything for that is love and only when we love can we find God.