Special Report: Kenyans' Views on Their Post-Election Crisis

by Magali Rheault and Bob Tortora

Latest: Kenyans Put National Identity Before Ethnicity

*New entries are noted in bold.

On the Electoral Process

  • When asked whether they lost any property in the post-election violence, 13% of Kenyans say they did, while 86% say they did not.
  • When asked about the root cause of the post-election conflict, a plurality (45%) of Kenyans say it was inequitable access to political power, while one-third say it was inequitable access to land. Nine percent say it was caused by an inequitable access to jobs, and 10% say it was attributable to something else.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) say the Electoral Commission of Kenya is most responsible for the post-election violence.
  • A majority of Kenyans (63%) think more than one ethnic group was responsible for the violence and 23% think just one group bears responsibility. Overall, just 15% of Kenyans think Kikuyu were responsible for the post-election violence, while 5% think it was Kalenjin and 3% think it was Luo.
  • About six months after the presidential election took place, 7 in 10 Kenyans said the election was not honest.
  • Almost 6 in 10 Kenyans believed Raila Odinga from the Orange Democratic Movement won the election, while one-quarter thought Mwai Kibaki the incumbent from the Party of National Unity was the winner. Additionally, almost one in five Kenyans said they do not know.
  • The crisis had a severe effect on Kenyans' confidence in elections in general: Six months before the December 2007 election, 55% of respondents expressed confidence in the honesty of elections, which is roughly on par with the level recorded in May 2006, when the margin of error of ±5 percentage points is taken into account. But in June-July 2008, or about six months after the election, 22% of Kenyans said they have confidence in the honesty of elections in their country.
  • Similarly, Kenyans' confidence in the electoral commission, the institution responsible for all aspects of the electoral process -- including the compilation of voter registers, the counting of the votes, and the release of the official results -- dropped about 40 points since last year.
  • In June 2007, 62% of respondents trusted the institution to be autonomous in its decisions, virtually unchanged from May 2006. However, when Gallup asked the same question in June-July 2008, just 24% of Kenyans said they trusted the electoral commission to be independent.

On Approval Ratings

  • Roughly two-thirds of Kenyans (63%) approve of the Grand Coalition Government's job performance and of the way parliament is handling its job (67%).
  • In June-July 2008, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga each elicited the approval of a majority of respondents. However, Kenyans were far less likely to approve of Kibaki's leadership than of Odinga's, 63% vs. 85%.
  • Among ethnic groups, self-identified Kikuyu (95%) and Kamba (85%) are far more likely than nearly all of those in the other ethnic groups to say they approve of Kibaki's leadership. However, a strong majority among those who identify themselves with any ethnic group say they approve of the leadership of Odinga, which illustrates that his appeal crosses ethnic lines.
  • In June-July 2008, 55% of Kenyans said they approved of the job performance of the leadership of their country, which is roughly similar to the level recorded in June 2007, when 60% said the same. Gallup did not ask the question in 2006.

On Everyday Life

  • Although Kenyans' confidence in the local police (52%) declined slightly this year from 59% in 2007, the 2008 level is on par with 2006, when 49% had confidence in the police.
  • Despite the violence following the outcome of the presidential election, Kenyans report only a slight decline in their sense of personal safety, compared with results from the previous year. In 2008, 42% of Kenyans told Gallup they feel safe walking alone at night in their communities, compared with 46% in 2007, and on par with 42% in 2006.
  • In 2008, slightly more than two-thirds of Kenyans (67%) say there were times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food they needed for themselves or for their families, up 11 percentage points from about a year ago, but similar to the 71% in 2006. As points of comparison, a median of 58% across 32 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (range: 27% to 29% in Sudan, Benin, and Mali to 78% to 79% in Liberia and Zimbabwe) say they lacked money to buy needed food.
  • In 2008, about one in five Kenyans (22%) also say there were times in the past year when they did not have enough money to provide shelter for them and their families, which is on par with the 2007 level, but down 14 points from 36% in 2006. Across 32 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a median of 22% said the same (range: 13% to 14% in Benin, Botswana, Mali, and Zimbabwe to 43% to 44% in Angola, Chad, and Rwanda).
  • When asked in 2008 about the frequency of lacking certain basic necessities, almost 9 in 10 Kenyans say they have gone without electricity at home either always (77%), many (2%), or several times (8%) in the past year. Sizable percentages, if not majorities, also say they went without a cash income (60%), enough clean water (54%), medical treatment (47%), and enough food to eat (45%) at least several times in the past year.
  • The poll findings underscore the effect of the post-election crisis on Kenyans' assessments of their personal wellbeing currently, which declined from a mean score of 4.6 in 2007 to 4.0 in 2008, reverting to their mean score calculated in 2006.
  • When asked where they think they will stand five years from now (using the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top), Kenyans reported a mean score of 5.8 this year, compared with 6.4 in 2007, prior to the election. In 2006, Kenyans assessed their future lives with a mean score of 6.1.
  • In 2008, a majority of Kenyans (73%) said they are dissatisfied with their standard of living, which is similar to Kenyans' attitudes that Gallup measured in 2007 and 2006, when 66% and 71%, respectively, said the same.
  • But this year, almost one-half of Kenyans (46%) feel their standard of living is getting worse, compared with 29% who said the same in June-July 2007. In 2006, 43% of Kenyans felt their standard of living was deteriorating.

On Identity

  • A strong majority of respondents (82%) agree that, in the future, they can coexist peacefully in their local communities with all Kenyans, regardless of ethnicity and tribal affiliation.
  • At the same time, Kenyans' perceptions that their local areas are good places for racial and ethnic communities dropped to just 49% in 2008 from 63% last year and 67% in 2006.
  • A strong majority of Kenyans (81%) think a national debate about ethnic divisions in the country is either very important (62%) or important (19%) to the reconciliation process in the country.
  • Further, almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) also agree that the actions of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission are key to reducing the threat of future ethnic violence in the country.
  • When asked about their national identity, a strong majority of respondents (85%) said they think of themselves as Kenyans first. Only 6% of respondents said they view themselves first as members of their tribe or ethnic group.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Kenyans also said they personally identify most with their country, while 14% said they identify most with their nationality. Further, 7% said their most important identifier is their tribe, while 6% said it is their religion. The "region" marker garners just 5% of Kenyans' responses. Gallup only asked this identity question in 2008.
  • When asked about several identity markers, 96% of Kenyans say they strongly identify with their country (extremely, 85%/very, 12%), while 68% say they strongly identify with their ethnic group (extremely, 40%/very, 28%). A majority of Kenyans (65%) also say they identify strongly with their religion (extremely, 38%/very, 27%).

On Outlook

  • On the issue of the fate of the individuals who were arrested in the post-election violence, Kenyans appear somewhat mixed. Almost one-half (48%) think these individuals, if found guilty, should be prosecuted and sentenced, while almost one-quarter (23%) think they should be prosecuted and be given amnesty if found guilty. But another 28% think those arrested should be released without a trial.
  • Kenyans' view of the future is sobering: Forty-four percent of respondents think life in Kenya will never be the same again, while a bare majority (51%) think it will be.
  • Virtually all Kenyans (98%) have heard of the Grand Coalition Government, the power-sharing arrangement formed last April. Out of those who have heard of the Coalition Government, most (56%) think it will hold until the next presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2012. Almost one in five respondents think the Coalition will last at least one year, but 21% do not have an opinion.
  • Kenyans are divided on what the biggest obstacle for the Coalition Government to hold together is: one-third think it is a lack of political will to implement reforms, 30% think it is ethnic divisions within the government, and 27% believe it is the president and the prime minister refusing to work together.
  • When asked about the most pressing issue the Coalition Government must address, 54% of Kenyans mention economic matters: poverty (18%), inflation (17%), job creation (11%), and unemployment (8%). Issues relating to Kenya's turmoil such as the resettlement of internally displaced people and prosecuting those responsible for the post-election violence each elicits less than 10% of Kenyans' opinions. Further, just 7% of respondents say land reform, which has been a critical issue to address land grievances for decades, is the most pressing matter for the Coalition Government.
  • In June 2007, Kenyans' mean score of where their country stood at that time (using the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top) was 5.2, up from 4.4 from the previous year. Perhaps, the relatively strong economic growth rates that Kenya experienced between 2005 and 2007 help explain this increase in assessing their country's wellbeing. But in June-July 2008, Kenyans' assessments of their country's current standing had dropped to 4.5, a meaningful change, reverting to the mean score calculated in 2006.
  • Looking toward the future, Kenyans also expressed less optimism this year, with a mean score of 6.5 (identical to the 2006 rating) down from 7.3 in June 2007.
  • In 2008, about 8 in 10 Kenyans believed current economic conditions in their country are not good, up almost 40 points since last year, but similar to 2006, when 78% said conditions were not good.
  • A majority of Kenyans (54%) this year also said economic conditions in the country are getting worse, compared with 31% who said the same in 2007. But in 2006, public attitudes that the economy was deteriorating stood at 51%.
  • Between 2007 and 2008, Kenyans' confidence in national institutions declined for most tested in the poll. The judiciary, the military, and the national government elicit the largest drops in confidence, or 19, 16, and 15 points, respectively. Confidence in the honesty and integrity of the media also lost six points. Financial institutions and banks experienced an increase in public confidence (56% in 2007 vs. 69% in 2008). Kenyans' trust in religious organizations and the healthcare system has remained stable between 2007 and 2008.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 2,200 adults, aged 15 and older, in Kenya between June 16 and July 8, 2008. Results from the other two surveys are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in Kenya in April 2006 and June 2007. For results based on the samples of national adults in 2006 and 2007, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. For results based on the total sample of national adults in 2008, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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