What the US Ambassador thought of Kenyan Election Opinion Polls in 2007

The US Embassy in Kenya - Michael Ranneberger was the ambassador then - sent a cable to Washington on the opinion polls subject on November 14 2007. 

The opinion polls then showed that Raila Odinga was ahead with a wide margin in the 2007 presidential race and Mwai Kibaki was lagging behind. The US embassy quietly advised the opinion pollsters to change their methodology to reflect voter distribution and turnout rates after which the race became a close contest between the two presidential candidates. 

The 2013 opinion polls have elicited huge debates as to their authenticity and reflection of the reality on the ground. They have been showing Raila Odinga is leading the contest though his margin has been diminishing by the day and Uhuru Kenyatta is closing in. 

Speculations are rife that as we approach March 4th it will be a neck to neck race between Raila and Uhuru with a possibility of Uhuru leading in the opinion poll race and final ballot. 

This could also have informed the aggressive reaction by the West reiterating that they will not deal with the ICC suspects if they win and threatening unspecified consequences and sanctions if the ICC duo wins. Uhuru supporters believe the West is after a Raila presidency and that their statements are geared towards influencing the Kenyan public against voting for Uhuru.

The 2007 cable cable was among the thousands that were released by WikiLeaks.
¶1. (C) Our election analysis (reftels) indicates a close race for the presidency.  This analysis is based on voter  registration data and traditional turnout rates as well as  polling on presidential candidate preferences.  We were  concerned that widely published public opinion polls, which  showed ODM's Raila Odinga well ahead of President Kibaki, did  not accurately reflect the true status of the contest.  Given  the rising political temperature, partially due to the use of  blatant ethnic appeals by both sides, we were concerned about  the reaction of ODM supporters should their candidate lose in  a close outcome when they were led by public opinion polls to  expect a landslide victory. 
¶2. (C) The Mission quietly reached out to polling firms and  their clients to suggest that poll sampling distribution  should be based on the regional distribution of registered  voters, not on raw population (there are wide variances in  voter registration rates around the country, with the high  population density areas, such as Kibaki's native Central  Province, enjoying higher rates).  Polling on this basis  would be a more accurate predictor of the outcome.  When one  polling firm (Consumer Insights) then started limiting its  respondents on political preference polls to those who could  produce an actual voter identification card, the change was  dramatic: Odinga: 41 percent, Kibaki: 40.6 percent.  Once the  Steadman Group re-distributed their sampling according to the  August voter registration figures, the Kibaki/Odinga gap  shrank from 11 points to 4 points: from 39 percent Kibaki, 50  percent Odinga to 41 percent Kibaki, 45 percent Odinga.  
¶3. (SBU) The Electoral Commission of Kenya has now published  the final voter registration figures.  The major polling  firms have all committed to adjust their sampling according  to these figures and limiting responses to those who at least  claim to be registered voters.  The results of polls based on  sampling that reflects the final voter registration figures  will be available in about two weeks.  
You can view the cable at http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=07NAIROBI4457

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