, NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 31- Pollsters have taken the initiative to self-regulate their activities by setting standards to guide the conduct of opinion polls ahead of the next general elections.
Among the standards to be adhered to by polling agencies is the harmonisation of research questions and sample frames. Polls will also not be published within seven days to the election date.
According to James Naikuni of the Marketing and Social Research Association of Kenya (MSRA), the regulations will only apply to pollsters that are members.
“As MSRA we have adopted that a sample population of at least 1,500 people will be required for a national survey. The release date of polls must be a week before the date of election,” said Naikuni affirming that the media will be engaged not to report on polls that are so close to the date.
According to the MSRA, self regulation has arisen out of the realisation that the next general elections are likely to be the most hotly contested and that there was bound to be proliferation of opinion pollsters.
Other standards to be adhered to are the publication of the methodology and details of the poll including the names of individuals and organizations who will have commissioned the polls, questions respondents were asked in verbatim form and the percentages of their varied responses.
Also to be published are details of the sampling method used (whether it was random or not),achieved sample, geographical distribution, margin of error, description of respondents interviewed, field work dates, who paid for the poll and whether validation has been done through MSRA.
The association will set up a team to validate the findings of opinion polls before the results are released.
The research firms are opposed to a move by some Members of Parliament to introduce legislation to regulate opinion polling arguing that as a professional body, they have their own rules and regulations that they adhere to.
“We are pre-empting the situation as it is including that Bill currently in Parliament and we are so much for self regulation,” affirmed Angela Ambitho of Infotrak Research & Consulting.
A Bill that seeks to streamline the conduct and publication of electoral opinion polls was formally introduced for debate in Parliament in December last year.
The publication of the Electoral Opinion Polls Bill 2011 which is sponsored by Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale is borne from the reality that publication of electoral opinion polls results influence voters.
If passed, the Bill will require any initial publisher of the results of an electoral opinion poll to provide sufficient information to the public including; the name of the sponsor of the opinion poll and the name of the person who conducted the poll.
Currently, MSRA has 10 corporate members and 163 individual members including: Consumer Insight Ltd, Consumer Options Ltd, Infotrak Research & Consulting, Ipsos-Synovate Kenya, SBO Research Ltd, and Strategic Research Ltd and TNS-RMS EA Ltd.