Raila hires US pollster who says he’s ahead

Opposition chief Raila Odinga has hired US opinion polling firm Zogby, which has told him he is leading against President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The company, headed by veteran pollster John Zogby, will continuously assess Raila’s chances of unseating Uhuru.

Various publications in America have described John Zogby as a maverick. The New York Post termed him “the pacesetter in the polling business”, but others have dismissed the company after it got it wrong in an opinion poll it did about President Obama’s popularity. From that Obama poll, Zogby’s results were described as ‘outlier’ because of how different they were from other mainstream pollsters.

The main criticism against the company is its methodology. Zogby International conducts two types of polls, one type being conventional telephone polls. It however also conducts Internet-based polls among users who volunteer to participate in them, first by signing up at the Zogby website and then by responding to an e-mail solicitation.

Nate Silver, an analyst wrote: “These Internet polls, to the extent they rely on voluntary participation, violate the most basic precept of survey research, which is that of the random sample.”

The results reported yesterday are based on 2,983 face-to-face interviews conducted between July 8 and 13 in all the 47 counties in Kenya. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2%, 19 times out of 20.

Asked to speak to concerns about the accuracy of the numbers reported, Zogby is sanguine.

“I’ve been involved in thousands of polls like this, over many years, in dozens of countries, including in Kenya. I took part in this project from start to finish and can say unequivocally that the work is first-rate,” said Zogby, a senior adviser at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“Of course, no poll is perfect but for those who find it convenient to dismiss these results … well, the kindest thing I can say is they are engaging in wishful thinking.”

According to the poll, officially released yesterday but exclusively reported by the Star on Wednesday, Raila is now the preferred choice of 47.4 per cent of registered voters, against 46.7 per cent for Uhuru.

Five per cent of Kenyans remain undecided. The other six presidential candidates will garner only one per cent of the 19.6 million votes.

Zogby released the results via teleconferencing from the US at the Serena Hotel yesterday. In fact, Zogby, predicts that Raila will bag nearly half of the undecided voters for a clear first round victory.

The poll shows that 47 per cent of the 980,000 undecided voters are considering voting for the ODM leader compared to Uhuru’s 27 per cent.

Jubilee has been using the services of global data mining company Cambridge Analytica and the British PR firm BTP Advisers that successfully managed the TNA campaign that brought Uhuru to power in 2013.

Cambridge Analytica is credited with helping President Trump to win the American presidential election last November, and with helping the Leave side to win in the Brexit referendum in the UK last June.

Some have described Zogby as among the hottest pollsters in the United States today.

“All hail Zogby, the maverick predictor who beat us all,” proclaimed the Washington Post in November 1996, after Zogby alone called that presidential election with accuracy. The contest was between President Bill Clinton and then Republican candidate Bob Dole.

In the 2000 election, daily national tracking polls conducted by Zogby International in the last few weeks foretold a tightening of the race for president, while nearly all other polling firms projected an easy victory for George W Bush. Zogby International instead was the first to observe the gap closing significantly between Bush and Vice-President Al Gore in the waning hours of the election.

Zogby continues to poll extensively throughout the world, estimated to be in over 70 countries. He has polled and conducted focus groups throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, Latin America, Eastern Europe, South Korea, along with the Middle East.

Two days to the titanic race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Zogby first supported Hillary before switching sides and getting behind Trump.

This is the first time it is emerging that Raila is engaging some of the leading and most influential foreign strategy firms.

Speaking on NTV last week, a confident Raila said only a miracle will enable Jubilee to win. He revealed that NASA has been contracting international pollsters to secretly conduct presidential popularity surveys.

“That is why we are talking with such confidence. The country is tired of the Jubilee regime. The country is going to speak very loudly on August 8,” the flagbearer said.

The Opposition leader has ranked way below Uhuru in local polls, although recent surveys show that he has dramatically gained.
For instance, in June, an Ipsos poll put Raila five points behind Uhuru – 47 per cent against 42.

A month later, Infotrak placed Raila at 43 per cent against 48 per cent.

The latest Radio Africa Group poll gave Raila 44 per cent and Uhuru 49 per cent.

But yesterday Zogby said concerns about the state of the economy and worsening corruption under Uhuru seem to be weighing on the President’s chances.

“A plurality of Kenyans (42 per cent) think the country is going in the wrong direction, while large numbers are concerned about unemployment (56 per cent) and corruption (42 per cent). If I were the President, I’d be worried,” says Zogby. “Nearly 70 per cent of Kenyans think corruption has gotten worse in the last four years, including a lot of his own supporters (46 per cent).”

Indeed, concerns about corruption seem to run very deep, the pollster said.

An overwhelming number of people, of all political loyalties, tie corruption to difficulties they experience in their daily lives.
Over 88 per cent of respondents say corruption plays a large or moderate role in rates of unemployment.

Other prominent social ills like the high cost of living (88 per cent) and the shortage of basic foodstuffs (82 per cent) attract similar numbers.

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