A survey of Kenyan voters exiting polling stations after the March 4 election shows a statistical tie between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, with both candidates receiving about 41 per cent of the vote.
The exit poll was conducted by two American political scientists and included about 6,000 Kenyan voters. The results were released ( captured on this video link ) at a Washington think-tank forum on Thursday.
An exit poll is a survey of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations.
Unlike an opinion poll which asks whom the voter plans to vote for or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks whom the voter actually voted for.
A similar poll conducted before actual voters have voted is called an entrance poll. It is commonly used in the West and the outcome has often been used to declare winners in polls.
The exit poll showed Mr Kenyatta receiving 40.9 per cent of votes and Mr Odinga 40.6 per cent, with support for other candidates accounting for some of the remainder.
Nearly 12 per cent of the Kenyans included in the survey refused to indicate for whom they had voted in the presidential race while the other six presidential candidates — Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr Peter Kenneth, Ms Martha Karua, Mr Abduba Dida, Prof James ole Kiyiapi, and Mr Paul Muite — shared the remaining 6.5 per cent of the votes.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), however, declared Mr Kenyatta the winner with 6,173,433 votes representing 50.07 per cent of the total votes cast.
Mr Odinga came second with 5,340,546 votes, representing 43.31 per cent. Mr Odinga unsuccessfully contested the outcome in the Supreme Court citing massive irregularities.
The American pollsters say that the exit poll results represented “a statistical tie” between the two top vote-getters due to the survey’s margin of error.
One of the pollsters, Harvard University vitiating professor James Long, acknowledged under sharp questioning from the audience that the margin of error could be as high as 3 per cent.
But even taking account of various statistical uncertainties, Prof Long said: “There is no reasonable assumption that gets either candidate to 50 per cent.”
For example, the contention that Mr Kenyatta benefited from a comparatively much higher turnout in Kikuyu-dominated parts of the country was shown through the exit poll to be “a myth”, Prof Long declared
He and his colleague, Prof Clark Gibson of the University of California at San Diego, declined to identify precise causes for the discrepancy between their survey’s results and the outcome certified by IEBC. The official result showed Mr Kenyatta winning slightly more than 50 per cent and thus avoiding a runoff vote.
The pollsters have “no evidence of people stuffing ballots” or buying votes, Prof Long said.
“Why should somebody believe the results of the election are invalid?” a member of the audience asked.
“Because people broke the law when they counted votes,” responded Prof Long.
Prof Long said at the outset of his presentation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies that exit polls are “immune” to ballot stuffing or technological breakdowns.
Data from the survey also indicated that both Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta enjoyed overwhelming support from their respective ethnic groups.
Mr Kenyatta received 83 per cent of the Kikuyu vote, according to the exit poll, while Mr Odinga got 94 per cent of the Luo vote, the survey indicated.
Among Kalenjin included in the poll, 74 per cent voted for Mr Kenyatta and 11 per cent for Mr Odinga. For the Kamba who took part in the survey, the breakdown was 63 per cent for Mr Odinga and 12 per cent for Mr Kenyatta.
Overall, “there seems to be some loosening of ethnic identification” with particular candidates, Prof Long suggested. In response to a survey question asking participants to name the most important issue behind their choice, most cited either the economy or employment.
Very few voters identified tribalism, land or the cases before the International Criminal Court as the most important issues in the election.