Idiot Press: The Fact-check Edition

So apparently our prezzo is the third best performing president in Africa.

Well, woobloodyhoo!

And here we thought he’s a complete idiot, what with dodgy procurement scams, terrorist attacks all over the country, a sluggish economy, suspect payments to Anglo Leasing ghosts… Ladies and gentlemen, apparently the man has a 78% approval rating. EH? Now I saw the headline and I shrugged it off, convinced that it was another bullshit proclamation from the spin idiots over at State House. Truth be told I couldn’t be bothered to read, these days I can’t be bothered to listen to anything serikali has to say. That and I do not consider Kirubi’s outfit a credible source of news. When then same headline popped up in The Star this morning, however, I felt compelled to check it out. According to The Star…

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been ranked as the third best performing sub-saharan Africa leader in a poll released by Washington-Based polling group, Gallup.

Uhuru received a rating of 78 per cent in the survey carried out in 2013. The poll ranked Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita led with 86 per cent and Ian Khama of Botswana at 81 per cent.

“Presidents from more than half of the 26 sub-saharan African countries surveyed in 2013—many of whom are attending the US-Africa Leaders Summit this week—received job approval ratings higher than 50 per cent. But those ratings varied greatly across countries,” the Gallup poll indicated.

They went on to add…

The poll comes at a time when Uhuru will be holding meetings with Obama, US government officials and American investors. According to Gallup, Uhuru’s performance is approved highly by persons of all age-group as follows; 15-24 (78 per cent), 25-34 (77 per cent), 35-44 (70 per cent) and 45+ (85 per cent).

So apparently this was a serious poll, conducted in 2013, by Gallup. This sounds quite kosher, no? But, and there’s always a but, if the poll was done in 2013, and the man was elected in 2013, when exactly was this poll done?

I went off to look for the first article on Capital News.

Among the leaders who received some of the highest approval ratings, a few have been in office for more than two decades, such as Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

“Several other highly rated presidents, such as Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, had either just been elected to a first term or started on their second term at the time of the survey,” it went on to state.

President Kenyatta was also elected into office last year.

The poll further points out that the same diversity in tenure also appears among leaders who received the lowest job performance ratings from their constituents.

“Two of these presidents, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Chad’s Idriss Déby, have been in office for more than two decades, while most of the others were finishing their first or second term at the time of the survey. As such, length of time in office appears to be unrelated to approval ratings.”

That last line, “As such, the length of time in office appears to be unrelated to approval ratings.” It appears to be an explanation for the minor matter of a survey being conducted on approval ratings for someone who may not have been in the job very long. Random question, if a man has just been voted into office, what am I approving?

This is the table helpfully included in the Capital News article, because we all know that a table makes everything official…

+ No longer in office

Source: Gallup

I’d like to draw your attention to the first entry, Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita with an approval rating of 86%, and no tenure indicated. There’s an asterisk by his name, and two against Kabila’s name at the bottom of the list, implying footnotes at the bottom of the table offering explanations. No such luck, the only footnote included was in reference to the cross marks against Banda and Rajoelina. Keep this in mind, for later.

Now when one reads five woefully short articles bearing remarkable likeness to each other, all referencing vague data (the articles in the People Daily, the Daily Nation and the Standard are pretty much the same as the two above, except the Standard went a bit further and talked about the wealth of the respondents), one feels compelled to search for the source material, if only to find out what’s missing. These geniuses were quoting a report saying the president of Mali, elected mid last year in a country that recently had a coup and a French invasion cum rescue, and possibly flawed polls, and continuing instability in the North, this president got an approval rating of 86%? Really? And third on the list is the man who won his election with a 51% majority, and he had a 78% rating? How?

And how soon after their consecutive elections was this survey conducted?

This data was all from the Gallup site, off an article titled, “African Leaders’ Scorecard Is a Mixed Bag” dated August 4, 2014. First up, the complete table…

Remember the missing footnote regarding Keita? Seems the reason no tenure was indicated was because he had only been in office a month. Quick question, why did they feel the need to clarify that one month tenure, is it because an empty field raises questions, or is it because one month tenure raises questions? They also note that that result excludes four regions in the north. Thing is, the civil war in Mali was a north versus south fight, where the northerners were the insurgents. Any data missing from the north would therefore skew results in favour of the south, no? This is my armchair analysis, mind you, all I’m saying is if you poll mostly the side that won, odds are the results will be overwhelmingly, umm, positive. But hey, I’m no statistician.

The fact that the poll was done after only a month in office, while dodgy, is actually helpful in our quest to ascertain the date the polling was done. The elections in Mali were held in July last year, with a run-off the following month. The winner was declared in mid August, with his inauguration in mid September. That puts polling in October 2013. Now, our president was sworn into office in April 2013 and the one year tenure indicated would put us at April 2014. Thing is, this poll was conducted in 2013, yes?

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2013 in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.8 percentage points to ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Assuming the polling was done at the same time in all countries, in October, the Kenyan polling was done about 6 months after President Kenyatta was sworn in. Hell, even if they polled in December 2013, that still doesn’t give him a full year. That one year story makes no sense, but because I don’t like to make assumptions (not when there’s a possibility I may be sued), I got to digging, looking for the full report of this survey. I couldn’t find it. Seems you have to pay to get this valuable information. What I did find is this, Country Data Set Details

On page 81 of the ‘Gallup World Wide Research Data Collected From 2005-2014’, the data collection date in Kenya, in 2013, is listed as ‘May 20 – May 31 2013‘. That was 6 to 8 weeks after the inauguration. That is the only instance of data collection in Kenya in 2013.

Now it could be that I don’t know what to look for and I am misreading the limited information I’ve found, or it could be that the one year tenure indicated in their article is wrong, and by wrong I mean complete bollocks. If they polled in May, our president had been in office for less than two months, which then begs the question, why have they indicated one year, instead of two months?

More importantly, why did no-one at Capital News, or The Star, or People Daily, or Daily Nation, or the Standard, ask this most basic question?

Incidentally, who the hell did they allegedly poll to get such overwhelming numbers? I’m not being anti-Jubilee here, if CORD was given similar numbers I’d be just as confounded. The last election was so bloody divisive, there is no way a random sampling of the country could have given you nearly 80% in favour of either side, and definitely not two months after that supreme court ruling.

I’m thinking, if a report can get something as basic as duration wrong, something that can easily be counter checked with a quick glance at a calendar, then what else did they get wrong? This is what I’d expect the press to dig into, especially seeing as how they like a good siasa story. But no. They’re happy to copy paste snippets and slap on a silly headline, because that’s just how they do.

Say it with me…idiot press!