Enriching public and policy discourse in Kenya, one poll at a time

Prior to the launch of Sauti za Wananchi in Kenya Twaweza commissioned a formative study to examine the Kenyan polling space. The study found that, despite Kenya having a vibrant polling market, the polling space was dogged with claims of a lack of professionalism, low credibility and political bias especially on polls that focus on governance and elections.

It further revealed that there are no laws that explicitly govern the conduct of opinion polls except when it comes to the publication of polls related to elections, and that despite the constitutional requirement for public participation, there is no clear framework or law that compels those in public and policy spaces to incorporate public opinion.

 The media was identified as the key intermediary in opinion polling. Some of these findings were validated by one of the early rounds of Sauti za Wananchi poll which revealed that less than two out of ten citizens feel that their opinion counts to a large extent at the national (15%) and county (18%) levels.

The formative study highlighted that Kenyan public and policy discourse was missing:

  • poll that would be able to facilitate discussion and debate on critical public interest issues such as education, health, governance, and other topics.
  • a poll that would be credible with sound methodology and sampling, timely, open and transparent often involving critical stakeholders
  • a poll that would disseminated through effective channels. 

Toward the end of 2016, Twaweza carried out a focused feedback study, to assess what Sauti za Wananchi had added to the Kenyan polling space, whether Sauti za Wananchi was gaining traction, and how it could be improved to have meaningful impact. 

Key findings

  1. Sauti za Wananchi has been positively received by a range of stakeholders, and is seen to be effectively filling the identified gaps in public opinion polling in Kenya through its focus themes, frequency, credibility and impartial nature.
  2. Sauti za Wananchi is recognised as a reliable vehicle for gathering public opinion on governance issues, and as having the potential to boost the inclusion of public voices in policy making. Several policy actors have shown interest in using it to gain insight into citizen views.
  3. The poll results have been used most actively by stakeholders from media, policy and government sectors.
  4. The main targets for Sauti za Wananchi poll information are the media and policy makers; this however is not well understood, as many actors suggest it should be further disseminated to the wider public.
  5. Sauti za Wananchi can help government understand citizen views, public perception on service delivery and help citizen track the delivery of election promises.
  6. Policy actors criticize the fact that the findings of Sauti za Wananchi cannot be disaggregated at the sub-national level.
  7. Many actors also still struggle with the methodology; there is concern that it may have an influence on the findings.
  8. Less than one year since inception, 15% of Kenyans have heard about Sauti za Wananchi. Close to 10% can describe it accurately but only 6% can recall a specific topic. 

Read the full brief here.

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Authors: Samuel Otieno



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