Opposition chief Raila Odinga has sharply narrowed the gap with President Uhuru Kenyatta — Uhuru 47, Raila 42 — a new poll indicates.
The survey released yesterday by research firm Ipsos suggests Raila's support in the August 8 election has risen by a dramatic 12 percentage points in five months.
He is now just five points behind Uhuru.
Eight per cent of those surveyed said they were undecided.
According to the poll of 2,026 registered voters conducted between May 11 and 23, if the presidential vote were held at that time, Uhuru would lead by 47 percent against Raila's 42 percent.
One per cent said they will not vote. Two per cent refused to answer.
On May 18, a similar poll by the Radio Africa Group research department placed Raila at 40 percent and Uhuru at 49 percent.
This means Kenya for the first time could be staring at a presidential run-off, with none of the leading contenders likely to secure 50 per cent plus one vote in the first round.
In January this year, three months before the National Super Alliance announced Raila as its presidential candidate on April 27, an Ipsos placed the ODM leader at 30 percent against Uhuru's 47 percent.
Ipsos research analyst Tom Wolf said Raila's backing by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi has boosted his presidential bid.
“Upon re-examining the data from Ipsos’ previous survey, it is clear nearly all of this gain has been ‘in-house’, since Kalonzo’s six per cent and Mudavadi’s three per cent then have now vanished, evidently moving into Raila’s vote-basket,” Wolf told the Star yesterday.
Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula are among the NASA Pentagon campaigning for the ODM leader.
“Indeed, looking back over the entire [three year] period during which Ipsos has posed this question, Odinga’s current rating is at his highest,” Ipsos said.
Raila and Uhuru are among the eight presidential candidates approved by the IEBC to run for the top job.
The Ipsos poll was conducted through random, face-to-face interviews at the household level in 46 counties.
The poll has a +/-2.18 per cent margin of error, with a 95 per cent confidence level.
According to the poll, Uhuru and Raila would each secure victory in four of the former eight provinces.
Uhuru would win in Central Kenya by 88 per cent, Rift Valley with 63 percent, Eastern with 51 per cent and North Eastern by 57 per cent.
However, he would only secure 23 per cent in Western, 39 per cent in Nairobi and 26 per cent in Coast.
Raila, on the other hand, would win Nyanza by 76 per cent, Western with 58 per cent, Coast by 59 percent and Nairobi by 51 percent.
NASA think tanks are strategising how to make inroads in Meru and South Rift, while retaining their bastions.
However, the poll indicates Raila would secure only 36 per cent of the vote in Eastern, 30 percent in North Eastern and 32 per cent in the Rift Valley.
Forty-five per cent of Kenyans, according to the poll, feel closest to the ruling Jubilee Party, while 41 per cent say they feel are closest to NASA.
Those who said they feel closest to Jubilee were more numerous in Central (86 per cent), Rift Valley (62 per cent), Northeastern (59 per cent) and Eastern (53 per cent).
Kenyans who feel closest to NASA are higher in Nyanza (78 per cent), Western (64 per cent), Coast (52 per cent) and Nairobi (53 per cent).
But in what could be the most serious indictment ever of Jubilee's governance, the survey indicates 71 per cent of Kenyans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
According to the poll, 91 percent of NASA supporters and 52 per cent of Jubilee supporters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Sixty-eight per cent of those who said the Kenya is headed in the wrong direction cited the skyrocketing cost of living.
Seventy-six percent of Kenyans said their general economic conditions have deteriorated over the past three months. Only seven per cent of those surveyed said their situations have improved.
“Most striking, however, is the fact that this overall negative figure is the highest recorded since the last election, the nearest one having been obtained in Ipsos’ November 2013 SPEC survey, but which was substantially lower (60 percent),” Ipsos said.
Ironically, a 43 per cent of Kenyans who said their household economic condition had worsened in the past three months still said they would vote for Uhuru.
Forty-six percent of the respondents who said their household economic condition had deteriorated said they would vote for Raila.
Raila and the NASA brigade have turned hunger, food shortages, high prices and bad economic planning into a major political issue against the Jubilee administration. They promised to lower the cost of living if elected.
For the first time in post-independence history, a 2kg packet of unga hit Sh160 but Jubilee has moved in with a subsidy, cutting the price to Sh90.
Only 18 per cent said the country is headed in the right direction, nine per cent said Kenya is headed in the neither the right nor the wrong direction and two per cent said they were not sure.
In fact, the poll indicates 60 percent of Kenyans believe their general economic conditions for them and their families have worsened compared to five years ago.
Only 23 percent said their economic condition had improved over the last five years, while 16 percent said the condition stagnated.