In the recent past there has been an information revolution across Africa. In governing their people governments needs to assess the needs of the masses in order to factor them in their plans. In the same breath that the consumer became king; the hoi polloi has also become king as far as political leaders are concerned.
Writing in the Sunday Nation Nic Cheeseman noted that information on what ordinary people want, think and believe is becoming necessary to their leaders. It therefore behooves that leaders cannot act in isolation as has happened in the past and expect the people to just take their decision.
For example in Kenya, the enactment of the 2010 constitution saw the advent of an expanded bill of rights under Chapter Four. Article 33, 34 and 35 guarantees the freedoms relating to access and dissemination of information. Benefits of these gains are starting to be felt with expanded democratic space and increased developments across counties. The same cannot be said about a few other democracies across Africa where freedoms relating to information are not guaranteed. We have seen leaders seeking to review the constitution to extend their terms in office on the premise that the people still want them to hang on. This is however not supported by any empirical data but rather based on the whims and feelings of these leaders and examples are numerous.
By collecting data on political, social and economic affairs of the society, survey data can enable civil society, journalist and political parties to see whether the public has specific beliefs, concerns and needs that are not addressed by the political systems.
Opinion poll data plays a key as well in influencing how political leaders organize their campaigns and are a pointer when it comes to spending. Candidates can best know how to allocate resources based on the perceived strongholds and areas where they may appear to be not so popular.
This information also helps in promoting a free and fair elections and this ensures that the results of elections is leaders with greater legitimacy and accountability. Holding regular opinion polls is therefore vital in entrenching democracy and promoting the acceptability of results which in turn improves the environment for delivery of election promises by the elected.
If we don’t have this kind of information leaders will only be groping in the dark and needs and aspirations of the electorate will most likely be unmet.
by: Martin Mutwiri Miriti https://www.facebook.com/mutwirim