Uhuru Kenyatta Emerges as 1st Round Favorite in Kenya’s March 4th Poll

OK, so as promised, here is my first attempt at looking at the numbers and what they are telling us about the outcome of the March 4th general election in Kenya.

14.3 million Kenyans registered to vote this year. Out of this (based on historical turnout rates) about 11 million will actually show up to vote. If the opinion polls are right, neither Uhuru Kenyatta nor Raila Odinga (the top two frontrunners) will get the requisite 50% plus one vote required to win the election. It is likely that there will be a runoff. About 4% of voters remain undecided. The polling trend (see below) suggests that the race will tighten over the next six weeks before the election.


The first opinion polls after the party nominations show Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the raw vote, at least according to my analysis. The overall national head to head match up in the two polls released Monday show Mr. Odinga leading Mr. Kenyatta by (48-40, Infotrak) and (40-36, Ipsos).

The regional poll tallies, on the other hand, show a different story. In these Mr. Kenyatta emerges with a lead of between 490,000 and 630,000 of the accounted for votes depending on the turnout models used. The average of the tallies show that if elections were held over last weekend Mr. Kenyatta would garner 4.5 million votes to Mr. Odinga’s 3.9. This leaves about 24% of the (potential) votes cast either spread out among the other presidential contenders or undecided.

Here is how I arrived at the numbers:

The surveys by Infotrak and Ipsos (the two firms correctly predicted the outcome of the 2010 referendum) gave regional tallies of how the top two coalitions did among those surveyed. With a few modifications (like assigning the GEMA counties in Eastern region the Central region poll results), I assigned these tallies to the different counties within the regions. I then estimated voter turnout using the numbers from the three most recent national voting exercises – 2002 and 2007 elections and the 2010 referendum. Because of the anomalies in the presidential election in 2007, I used the constituency turnout figures (In these figures, for instance, Juja and Nithi did not have turnouts exceeding 100% as was the case in the presidential election in 2007). Of course there are counties in which the popularity of either Kenyatta or Odinga vary by constituency but this is the best we can do for now. I then used the estimated county turnout rate and the regional polling results to estimate the expected vote count for either candidate in each county using IEBC’s figures of registered voters.

It is important to note that among the two polls, Infotrak asked respondents about their preferred ticket (Kenyatta and Ruto vs. Odinga and Musyoka) while Ipsos asked about individual presidential candidates. The discrepancy in the national polling average and the raw numbers I show here might be because of incorrect weighting of the different regions by the polling companies. The fact that Kenyans vote along ethnic lines and voters are geographically concentrated means that the regional polling numbers might provide a better picture than the national numbers. National polls appear to be over-estimating Odinga’s support by about 3 percentage points on average.

Uhuru Kenyatta is ahead in the raw figures for the following reasons:

  1. The first reason is that Mr. Kenyatta has the numbers. The combined GEMA registered voters number 3.9 million. That is 27.3% of the registered voters. Mr. Kenyatta obviously won’t bag 100% of these votes but it doesn’t hurt to have a vote rich base.
  2. His stronghold of the wider Mt. Kenya region had the highest voter registration rate in the country. This, combined with the fact that his running mate brings in the populous Rift Valley region, gives Kenyatta a slight edge off the gates.
  3. Kenyatta’s strongholds (Mt. Kenya) and Rift Valley have historically had higher turnout rates than the regions that Odinga will need to win on March 4th. In 2002 Kenyatta’s strongholds had a higher turnout rate by 5 percentage points. In 2007 it was 10%.
  4. The combined high population, higher registration rates and expected higher turnout means that Mr. Kenyatta is presently the favorite to win the first round of the March 4th presidential poll.

How can Odinga win?

  1. A lot of voters (24%) remain spread out among the smaller candidates or are undecided. Come election day these voters may break for Mr. Odinga for the reasons I gave in an earlier post.
  2. Mr. Odinga’s other path to victory is by ensuring high turnout in his strongholds of Nyanza, Western and Coast regions. Just by matching the expected turnout in Mr. Kenyatta’s strongholds he would reduce the deficit to about 250,000 votes.
  3. He must also eat into some of Mr. Kenyatta’s support in the Rift Valley and Central regions. If the election is a mere census then Mr. Kenyatta will win the first round (the second round is another story all together). For Mr. Odinga to win he must convince voters in Mr. Kenyatta’s strongholds that he is the better candidate.

Facing reality:

For a while it seemed like this election was Mr. Odinga’s to lose. I have since softened on this a little bit. Despite his many problems, Mr. Kenyatta can still win this election, at least the first round. In the second round everything will be contingent on who between Messrs Kenyatta and Odinga can bag the roughly 20% of votes that will go to various smaller candidates in the first round. As things stand Mr. Odinga is the likely beneficiary of these votes.

A lot will happen between now and March 4th. But key things to consider include:

  1. If turnout is low on March 4th Mr. Kenyatta will emerge the winner. His (national) base is relatively wealthier and more urban (or more accurately, more politically engaged – if you doubt this see the voter registration numbers for Kiambu county alone) than Mr. Odinga’s and thus will have a higher turnout. Having failed to match Mr. Kenyatta’s voter registration rates, Mr. Odinga needs upwards of 80% of those registered in his strongholds to show up to vote, or else he will lose.
  2. Mr. Kenyatta appeared to be the better organized candidate in getting his base to register to vote. And given the way in which his party handled the nominations exercise, it is likely that he will out-organize Mr. Odinga in getting his supporters to the polls. This spells more trouble for Mr. Odinga.
  3. The nominations exercise gave Mr. Odinga’s coalition bad press for four consecutive days. His home base of Nyanza was the worst affected. Seemingly undemocratic nomination exercises – in which Odinga’s allies controversially won party primaries – in the region may depress turnout, something that Odinga should be worrying about A LOT. Watch out for how Mr. Odinga’s party handles the nominations fallout in his Nyanza backyard.
  4. Musalia Mudavadi appears to have made gains in Western province – he is polling there at 26%. His gain is Odinga’s loss. If Mr. Mudavadi continues to gain in the next 40 days then we shall almost be assured of a run off, after Mr. Kenyatta wins the first round.

14 thoughts on “Uhuru Kenyatta Emerges as 1st Round Favorite in Kenya’s March 4th Poll

  1. Another important factor is gauging just how much Ruto brings to the table. It ranges between 1M and 1.9M…..

    This will determine if a runoff is necessary,or if it will be a ’90 minute’ affair. I agree with Mutahi Ngunyi when he says that RA0 ought to focus on ENSURING a runoff,as opposed to winning


  2. Great analysis Mr. Opalo! This is what I have been telling people for a while. Mudavadi’s rise in Western is gonna eat into Raila’s votes and the nominations fracas in Nyanza will affect the voter turnout in the region in March. Ruto’s RV stronghold had smooth nominations and his people are very excited about the nominees as Ruto didn’t interfere with the nominations process (many of his allies in UG lost). GEMA turnout is going to hold up as they have everything to gain if Uhuru wins.
    I still believe that Uhuru and Jubilee can pull a decisive first-round win if everything aligns well for them (high voter turnout in their strongholds of RV & Central, voter apathy in Nyanza and Mudavadi’s inroads in Western Kenya).


  3. Ken, You have understimated the GEMA registered voters by about 500k. Central has 2.2million, Meru & Embu has 866k, Nakuru, Laikipia, Narok and Kajiado have another 700k (Minimum); Nairobi has about 700k (Minimum Gema registered voters). This makes a total GEMA base of about 4.4million against your estimate of 3.9 million. Uhuru might not only lead in the first round but actually get 50%+1 votes in that first round depending on voter turnout.


  4. You should teach infrotak and ipsos kenyan politics and its dynamics,and also how to collect and analyse data. They can lie using numbers,but they forget that its the ballots that go into the box that will determine the winner….In my opinion, Raila stands no chance in 2013 and those lying to him that he has a chance are just exploiting his ignorance…as most politicians like hearing only what they want to hear. This will be a jubilee year and it will take a very big blunder on them to lose it.


  5. Mr Odinga needs to fire his advisors for misleading him. If you go by the raw numbers and IEBC registration then Mr Kenyatta is a head of Odinga. Another thing is underestimating Musalia’s strength. As we are talking I think Musalia has over 50% of Western. You will confirm this is true in March. Wetangula who is supposed to be marshalling support for Odinga is himself not sure of winning the senate race in Bungoma.


  6. I concur with this article. CORD may be ahead by a few percentage points but remember that the survey averaged responses from 47 counties and numbers were not weighted on registered voter numbers. Of the 11 million votes expected to be cast in this election, Jubilee is expected to get about 5.75 million, CORD about 4 million and the remaining 1.25 million will be divided among the other coalitions. If voter turnout pattern is similar to recent national elections, Uhuru will win in the first round. Odinga is hoping that the undecided voters break his way, if that happens then we head to the second round pitting him and Uhuru. In addition, Jubilee is expected to deliver majority of the gubernatorial seats (at least 25 of 47), senate seats (at least 25 of 47), and at least 160 parliamentary seats. The net effect of Kalonzo and Wetangula will fall far short and cannot replace what Ruto and Mudavadi brought to Odinga during the last general election.


  7. Ken, Mutahi Ngunyi, yesterday, confirmed this details by publishing his sensational ‘tyranny of numbers’ which has caused quite a stir in the country. Talk of great minds thinking alike……. Good thing is that this contradiction from the poll stars may mitigate whatever violence that might have occurred in the event that jubilee win the election against a popular cord coalition. CORD strongholds are now aware of the irony of the polls


  8. Pingback: Who will win the Kenyan presidential election? A look at the numbers « Opalo's weblog

  9. Pingback: Top posts of 2013 « An Africanist Perspective

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