On the Electoral Opinion Bill

Posted by on 21st December 2011

Categories:   Uncategorized

Is the Electoral Opinion Bill overkill or much needed? Though no one can argue about the need for polls to be conducted in a scientific and transparent manner, I’d be inclined to argue that bill is overkill. The bill sponsored by Ikolomani MP, Bonny Khalwale, creates a myriad of obligations for both pollsters and media groups that publish or broadcast the results of the electoral opinion polls.

o   It prohibits the publication of the results of electoral opinion polls 48 hours before the date of the election.

o   It obligates those who broadcast electoral opinion polls to provide information on who sponsored the poll, the name of the person/organisation that conducted the poll, the polling period, the methodology of the survey, the size of the population polled, the pool from which was the polled population was drawn, the education of level of those polled, and the margin of error in respect of the data.

o   The Bill creates additional obligations for those that publish electoral opinion polls requiring them to provide the above information, plus – the wording of the poll questions, sampling methods, dates and times of interviews, weighting factors, methods used to recalculate data to take in to account participants who were undecided or expressed no opinion etc.

o   The bill imposes a fine of up to 500,000 shillings or a prison sentence not exceeding one year for any contraventions of its provisions.

The bill applies to all electoral opinions polls conducted in an election period i.e. “any period of 12 immediately preceding an election.” This definition is less problematic than that definition given of an “electoral opinion poll” i.e. “a survey of the public opinion or a sample of the public opinion to assess the views of the electorate on various matters relating to an election, political candidates or political issues.” This definition is so broad that it is difficult to figure out what falls or what doesn’t fall under it. Do mini-surveys conducted at issue at the end of TV newscasts count, what about those mini-surveys conducted by newspapers on a political issues, or surveys on political blogs?

According to its memorandum of objects and reasons the Electoral Opinion Bill was “born out of a reality that the publication of results of electoral opinion polls influences Kenyans to vote one way or another,” and as a consequences “there is need for a law to ensure that such electoral opinion polls are conducted in a scientific and transparent manner and all the relevant information is disclosed to the public.”

What is your opinion on the Electoral Opinion Bill? Does the country need it? Do electoral opinion polls affect the way that you vote? Of all the factors that influence Kenyans electoral choices where do electoral opinion polls fall on scale?