Are Kenyans changing their voting behavior?

Jul 30, 2017

It’s another election year in Kenya and the country has been gripped by election fever. With the presidential debates now concluded, Kenyans are anxiously counting down the days to cast their ballots. We had a conversation with 593 Kenyans to see if voter education had any impact on Kenyan attitudes towards electing their leaders and to understand other peculiar Kenyan voting behaviours.

Several organizations have held campaigns over the past few months to promote peace and increase voter education. 50% of Kenyans have received some form of voter education within the past six months. Of the people who received this education 54% got this information from governmental institutions. TV was the most popular medium for voter education, followed closely by radio & the internet/ social media.

Over the years, Kenyan politics have typically been driven by ethnicity. More than half of the people we had a conversation with (57%) confessed that the tribe of a candidate had some influence on how they vote. From our conversation it’s clear that the main reason why Kenyans vote along ethnic lines is the fear of marginalization, with people citing employment and development as some of the key factors at stake. ”I feel that if he’s from my tribe, we may not face oppression” one person told mSurvey. “Somebody from my tribe will understand my needs,” added another.

However, things are looking up. Despite tribalism remaining a constant challenge, Kenyans are looking for more than just a popular candidate when electing leaders. According to our conversation a party’s manifesto / policy statement is likely to influence 61% of Kenyans voting decisions. 85% were confident that the candidates they were electing would improve their standards of living. Nearly half of Kenyans (44%)  base their voting decision on who is capable of formulating good policies while another 27% base their decision on  the candidate’s reputation and track record.

Our conversation also revealed that Kenyans are more concerned about voting in the rural county governments where they came from instead of the urban counties where they currently reside. Up to 15%  of Kenyans are registered to vote  in counties where they don’t currently live. Other than citing security concerns during the election period, the majority  opted to vote in other counties because they knew the candidates better there: “I’m registered as a voter at my rural area. I’m not familiar with the aspirants of my current residential area” said one respondent.

Kenyans have a fair amount of civic education, 92% of the people we spoke to know all the six elective positions, however there are signs that the roles of these positions are unclear: 52%  believe that the president’s role will have the most impact on their lives, compared to 1% who think the same of a senator. Despite the fact that Kenyans have different political stands, it is evident that most of them are looking forward to a peaceful election season as shared by 59% of the people we spoke to.