Back to Square One for Kenyans’ Personal Wellbeing?

by Magali Rheault and Bob Tortora

A majority say economic issues must be priorities for the government

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Given the violence that rocked Kenya in the aftermath of the country's national elections last December, it is not surprising to see that respondents' post-election evaluations of their personal wellbeing are down from 4.6 in 2007 and have reverted to their 2006 level, when their mean score was 4.0. Between 2005 and 2007, Kenya's economy was stronger, which may explain the 2007 increase in wellbeing.


It is difficult to ascertain how much of the decline in Kenyans' perceived wellbeing between 2007 and 2008 can be attributed to the post-election unrest. In all likelihood, the violence and looting exacerbated an already challenging food situation brought on by the global food price surge.

In fact, 99% of Kenyans told Gallup in June-July 2008 that the price of food had increased significantly over the past few months. When asked about the affect of the food price hikes on their personal situation, 88% Kenyans said that in the next six months, it would be harder for their families to eat because food prices have increased. Further, 78% of those surveyed also said that as a result, they could no longer afford to eat three meals a day.


Although a majority of respondents in each province said that because of the food price increases they can no longer afford to eat three meals a day, respondents living in the Coast (87%), Rift Valley (87%), and Western (86%) provinces are among the most likely to report this. The sample size in the North Eastern province is too small to report the results.


This year, slightly more Kenyans said they are dissatisfied with all the things they can buy and do compared with 2007, but the current level of dissatisfaction is similar to what Gallup observed in 2006. And when asked about how their standard of living was changing, almost one-half of Kenyans this year said it was getting worse compared with 2007, when about 3 in 10 said the same. In 2006, 43% of Kenyans felt their standard of living was deteriorating.

Further underscoring Kenyans' apprehension about the economy is citizens' responses to Gallup's question about the most pressing matter that the Grand Coalition Government needs to address. Fifty-four percent of Kenyans mention economic matters such as poverty (18%), inflation (17%), job creation (11%), and unemployment (8%) as issues the Grand Coalition Government needs to address.

Kenyans' evaluations of where they think they will personally stand in the future declined to a mean of 5.8 in June-July 2008 from a mean of 6.4 in summer 2007. This is not only a meaningful change, but also a drop from the 2006 mean score of 6.1.

Bottom Line

The Gallup Poll findings suggest that progress, in terms of perceived wellbeing and standard of living, that Kenyans felt they had made during 2007 was likely nullified this year. In this regard, Kenyans are essentially where they were when Gallup first polled in the country in 2006. While the global food price hike affected Kenya, the turmoil that followed the outcome of the presidential election may have also contributed to Kenyans' perceptions of a decline in their wellbeing. Further, the findings show that, among all the important issues that the government must handle, Kenyans are most likely to say economic matters are the most pressing.

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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