Findings of a new opinion poll released yesterday put Yoweri Museveni, the NRM presidential candidate a head of his opponents in the 2016 presidential race, six days to the February 18 general election.
The poll that was conducted from February 1 to February 8 by research firm Ipsos gives Mr Museveni a 53 per cent lead ahead of his closest opponent Dr Kizza Besigye at 28 per cent.
With a margin of error of +/-2.2 per cent and a confidence level of 95 per cent, it statistically means the President could have obtained 55.2 per cent or 50.8 per cent of the votes, in all giving him a chance to win the election in the first round. The winner of the presidential election must win at least 50 per cent plus one vote.
Last month’s poll by Research World International (RWI) conducted between December 19, 2015, and January 10, gave President Museveni 51 per cent ahead of his closest rival Dr Kizza Besigye who polled at 32 per cent.
A Daily Monitor commissioned poll gave 59.9 per cent of the vote to President Museveni if elections had been held between December 5 and December 8, 2015. The same poll gave Dr Besigye 21 per cent.
The remaining six presidential candidates – Amama Mbabazi (1.9 per cent) , Dr Abed Bwanika(0.3 per cent), Ms Faith Kyalya(0.6 per cent), Prof Venansius Baryamureeba (0.1 per cent), Maj Gen Benon Biraro (0.2 per cent) and Mr Joseph Mabirizi (0.1 per cent) – would have scored less than four percentage points collectively while 16.1 per cent of all respondents either refused to answer or said they were undecided.
The poll projects a two-horse race in next week’s elections between Mr Museveni and Dr Besigye, eliminating Mr Mbabazi, the immediate former prime minister, who is making a first attempt at the presidency. The Daily Monitor poll gave Mr Mbabazi six per cent of the vote while the RWI poll gave him 12 per cent.
Interestingly, the poll puts the two leading candidates almost at par when it comes to who has been best at addressing national issues in the campaign. Mr Museveni polled 39 per cent while Dr Besigye polled 38 per cent.
The poll was conducted to understand the level of optimism about the economy, gauge people’s perceptions towards the elections and candidates that they are inclined to vote for and factors that influence the choice of candidates.
The issue of whether the elections will be free and fair has been an important factor in this and previous elections. Only 54 per cent of the people polled felt the elections will be free and fair. Another 30 per cent said they would not be fair while 16 per cent said they did not know with only one per cent declining to answer.
Dr Besigye, who garnered 28 per cent of the vote in 2001 and 37 per cent in 2006 and 26 per cent in 2011, has always said the electoral process was not free and unfair, with the Supreme Court twice upholding his position but not annulling the results.
The incumbent had more support among both male voters (47 per cent) and female voters( 58 per cent) , compared to Dr Besigye who had 21 per cent (female) and 35 per cent (male).
While individuals had their candidates of choice, 56.8 per cent felt Mr Museveni would win the elections with 25.8 per cent projecting Dr Besigye to win.
In choosing the next president, the poll found that most voters (47 per cent) will be looking for someone with the “ability to take the country forward”, while 38 per cent will look at “promotion of peace and security” as key factors.
Reacting to the poll yesterday, Ms Margaret Lukowe, the deputy communications director for Mr Mbabazi’s Go Forward campaign team, said: “It is not possible. He (Mbabazi) is already rated a front runner. It is very sad that Ipsos has decided to sell their soul but... we definitely don’t believe in those polls, they are just gimmicks and propaganda tools.”
Mr Moses Byamugisha, an FDC activist and lawyer, said: “The true opinion poll is what Ugandans are saying on the ground. The environment we are operating in doesn’t give freedom to Ugandans to express what they feel. Even NRM people don’t feel free to speak because of the fragile situation we are in. We believe we have reached a majority of Ugandans. Dr Besigye has been to 112 districts and our findings are that people want change.” The NRM team could not be reached for a comment by press time yesterday.
The sample distribution was slightly different from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) demographics. According to Ubos statistics, Uganda’s population is 69 per cent rural and 31 per cent urban. However, the Ipsos sample was 80 percent rural and 20 per cent urban. The national population demographics give the percentage of female to male as 52 percent and 48 per cent respectively. Ipsos sample was 55 per cent female and 45 per cent male.
In terms of population distribution by region, Ipsos sample was 20 per cent central, 28 per cent western, 27 per cent eastern and 24 per cent northern. The Ubos 2014 statistics, however, indicate that central Uganda makes up 30 per cent of the population, northern Uganda is 18 per cent, western 27 per cent and eastern 25 per cent.
At a confidence level of 95 per cent, the margin of error should be at +/-4.9 – 5 percent. Ipsos poll however gives the margin of error as +/-2.2 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.