How much do you trust opinion polls in Ugandan politics?
Me thinks we need an opinion poll on opinion polls. And one of the questions is, do they matter? But the most important one is trust, which is a question of relativity.
Stephen Harper served as 22nd prime minister of Canada from February 6, 2006, to November 4, 2015. This is what he had to say about opinion polls:
“This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of public opinion.”
Not so different from former US national security adviser and secretary of state in the presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford tenures, Henry Kissinger, who opined: “Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls, but for the consequences of their actions.”
So were Ugandans to cast their votes between December 19, 2015, and January 10, the National Resistance Movement candidate would have walked back to State House with just about 51 per cent of the vote, according to the Research World International (RWI) poll funded by Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, housed by the Uganda National NGO Forum.
The five other presidential candidates; Dr Abed Bwanika, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Ms Maureen Kyalya, Maj Gen Benon Biraaro and Mr Joseph Mabirizi would scoop a combined harvest of 1 per cent.
Museveni has dropped from 55 per cent per a poll conducted in August 2015 by the same pollster and from 59 per cent per a poll commissioned by this newspaper.
In RWI’s August 2015 poll, covering 2,320 respondents, 17 per cent confessed they would vote Dr Kizza Besigye, meaning the three-time unlucky candidate has gained 15 per cent over the last five months and 12 points from the last rank the Monitor poll gave him.
A margin of error of +/-5 statistically means the President could have obtained 56 per cent or 46 per cent of the votes.
Dr Patrick Wakida, RWI’s chief executive, is a sworn Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) senior member allied to party president Mugisha Muntu’s leadership style. But the poll has clear methodology and, therefore, deserves respect.
Ugandans in the Opposition cannot keep watering down every poll using the prism of “Museveni has paid you”.
There are still men and women out there to whom integrity is a precious metal held so close to the heart that no amount of scheming can break it. But again, if a poll is conducted by men and women who have publicly sworn their mission on the political stage is to fight one of the candidates being polled, then it is only natural that a hole will be punched on the poll.
That does not mean any candidate should dismiss the poll, least the Opposition which keeps throwing the argument, not based on empirical evidence that Ugandans fear to say their hearts out, so opinion polls cannot be taken seriously.
Some will fear and take to the hiding, others will not. So to arrive at the conclusion that 35 million people randomly polled will be bogged down by the fear factor should be based on more evidence than sheer talk.
That poll, for instance, is an indictment on the Electoral Commission and Uganda Police Force whom respondents gave a trust level of 47 per cent.