Why opinion polls on elections can have you end up in hospital

Tifa political analyst Tom Wolf

Tifa political analyst Tom Wolf releasing the findings of an opinion poll at Heron Potrico hotel in Nairobi on May 18, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

I gave you good advice—I must have—about this election business and mental health: Don’t become too invested. You will end up having to look for Dr Mathenge, the cardiologist. High blood pressure, you see?

Since you didn’t take my advice, let me put you in hospital.

I’ve just been looking at the July report of the Tifa omnibus 2022 election survey, the latest open source opinion poll that I’ve looked at. People have sent me other surveys ascribing them to a variety of “infallible” sources, and some are quite good, but let us stick to what we know.

I shall give a selection of interesting findings and trends in that research but, in the interest of world peace, I shall not attempt to provide too much analysis. I should point out that I am at home in the world of research, by training and practice.

I’m not saying the Tifa research is accurate or not accurate; this is not an endorsement or evaluation.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) is the most popular political party in Kenya, according to the Tifa research, with 33 per cent of those interviewed saying they support it, 28 per cent are independent of party, 26 per cent are in ODM. Jubilee, at four per cent, is the same size as the weed party and Wiper, at two per cent is really a small, half-a-blunt-sized “mbus”.

Most dominant coalition

Azimio la Umoja, however, is the most dominant political coalition at 42 per cent, leading Kenya Kwanza, at 35 per cent, by a clear seven percentage points. Only 14 per cent say they are independent of coalitions and nine per cent don’t know their minds. It would appear that there are more people in coalitions than parties.

In terms of trends, William Ruto started the year on a high of 38 per cent in February, went down to 35 per cent in May before recovering to 39 per cent in June. Raila Odinga, on the other hand, shows a smooth acceleration—from 27 per cent in February, 39 per cent in May and 42 per cent in June.

The ‘ugali ya ganja’ man, the high and clouded judgments notwithstanding, has wobbled a little, starting the year at four per cent and slumping to two per cent before wafting back up to four per cent. The undecided are down by half at 10 per cent in June, from 20 per cent in February.

So who is going to vote? A whole 94 per cent of respondents think they are registered—which is impossible because, going by IEBC numbers, 22.1 million voters are on the roll, representing 85 per cent of the population. South Rift has the lowest claimed registration, 88 per cent, and Lower Eastern the highest, 97 per cent.

Motivated to vote

Raila and Ruto supporters are equally motivated to vote, 71 per cent said they will definitely vote. Folks at the Coast are not that keen—only 57 per cent were determined to vote. Motivation is weakest—less than 70 per cent—in Mt Kenya (69 per cent), South Rift (67 per cent) and Coast, of course, but strongest in Western, Nyanza and Nairobi (all 74 per cent).

Ten per cent of the unregistered are not well. They told interviewers that they will “definitely vote”.

Wiper is smaller than the hyena testis-harvesting party. UDA is 76 per cent Jubilee and 35 per cent ODM, that’s where it poached its members. The puffy eyes party has taken 49 per cent of members from Jubilee, 28 per cent from ODM and nine per cent from UDA.

Azimio is the most popular political coalition in six of nine regions: Coast (50), Lower Eastern (49), Nairobi (56), Nyanza (66), South Rift (46) and Western (45). Kenya Kwanza dominates Central Rift (61), Mt Kenya (47) and Northern (45).

Following a similar pattern, Raila leads in six regions, none with less than 10 per cent: Coast (50), Nairobi (58 per cent), Nyanza (68), South Rift (45) Western (48) and Lower Eastern (48). Ruto leads in three regions: Central Rift (63), Mt Kenya (53) and Northern (55). The durag messiah gets the most puffs from South Rift and Lower Eastern.

Here is a way to spend a sleepless night.

Kenya Kwanza is possibly banking on the minimalist Jubilee strategy of 2013 and 2017: Get the bulk of the votes from a few high-yield areas, principally Rift Valley and Mt Kenya, and top up with the rest of the country, notably Western, Coast and Nairobi. The Cord approach was building a broad coalition consisting of winning the rest of the country.

It’s the same formula in 2022. Here is an exercise to guarantee your hospital stay: Cluster the 47 counties in the nine regions above, get the number of registered voters according to IEBC and apply the Tifa ratios. NB: There are other surveys with markedly different findings out there.

Say hello to the nurses.