In recent years, opinion polls have developed a reputation for failing to capture the views of the electorate but a research fellow at Centre for Social Research under the University of Malawi, Joseph Chunga has defended Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) which has bene criticised by Professor Jimmy Namangale, a statistician at Chancellor College.
Chunga said Namangale’s critique raised no serious arguments against the methodology that was employed by the IPOR survey which predicted an outright victory for Tonse Alliance candidate Lazarus Chakwera and his running mate Saulos Chilima..
“His assertions are around interpretation of the findings largely based on the political environment during the time of the survey and theories of electorate behavior. A closer look will in fact show that his theoretical assumptions, analysis and conclusions are misleading to say the least,” he said.
It has been argued that voting behavior theories would entail those who voted for DPP in previous elections are more likely to vote for DPP-UDF alliance and MCP supporters are likely to vote for MCP-UTM alliance.
But Chuga said any scholar of political behavior will caution against “this amateurish 1+1=2 kind of analysis” of electoral alliances.
“It simply doesn’t work that way. That’s why we have a concept of defection rate. The gist of it is that electoral alliances come with gains and losses. The question is what’s the net effect. The IPOR survey presented results of defection rates which are very clear,” he said.
“There are glaring errors that some may be tempted to believe they were deliberate in order to advance a particular point. But I wish to believe that the author made innocent errors here. Unfortunately, those errors resulted in the fatal false conclusion.
“It is important to get the figures right especially when he ends up predicting a difference of 72,000 votes between the contesting candidates .”
Namangale claims Central region has 2,247,157 registered voters while Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) voters roll has 2,920,423. He claims Northern region has 931,229; MEC says 929,974. Namangale claims Southern region has 3,009,259, MEC has 3,009,173.
“In short, his calculations are based on figures that exclude 671,925 voters. Such calculations are simply wrong,” noted Chunga.
Namangale argues that respondents to the IPOR survey were influenced by the political environment at the time of the survey characterized by MCP-UTM ‘demonizing the DPP’ government as a product of fraud elections and reports of abuse of COVID-19 funds.
Commentators say challenging the culture of ‘You can’t say that!’ is the precondition for diminishing the pressure to conform and self-censor.
In his reaction, Chunga said: “ It is undisputable that the survey responses are informed by what is happening in the country. In fact, the very essence of studies on political behavior is to establish how the various developments in the country influence their political views and action. In this case, the fact that perceptions of fraud elections or corruption (even if based on propaganda) can influence people’s voting intentions is no basis for questioning respondent’s honesty. What is important is that they will vote for candidate regardless of the basis.”
Chunga said evidence from Malawi surveys shows no significant relationship between one’s views of voting intentions and who they think is conducting the survey.
“Malawians are generally free to air their views. By the way, why would supporters of a ruling party and its partner be afraid of sharing their views?”
Use of 2019 nullified results
Chunga said any discussion based on 2019 votes is as void as the election that was declared void by the courts.
It is argued that the court’s decision didn’t question the figures.
“This question doesn’t arise at all – there was no presidential election in 2019. The figures in question were not a product or what you could call an electoral process. Trying to redeem those figures (be it by MCP, UTM, or DPP) is a futile exercise. Going ahead to use the same for extrapolation of future results is even more,” Chunga said.
He said if Namangale indeed believes that 2019 presidential elections figures stand valid and at the same time believes the electoral alliance Maths go by simple addition of alliance partners’ support, the conclusion cant be that DPP-UDF alliance have an upper hand.
The logical conclusion going by these arguments would be that MCP-UTM alliance will go away with 55% (35 for MCP + 20% for UTM) against 43% of DPP-UDF ( 38% for DPP + 4% for UDF).
Namangale also questions how the survey found that DPP support may have declined.
“Interestingly, he doesn’t explain why he believes MCP-UTM support should be lower after pointing out that these were energized by court verdict. He concludes with estimating that the gap between two alliances would be in the region of 72,000, again based on 2019 presidential election figures. He doesn’t explain why the gap has to shrink from 624,236 ( i.e. 2,800,109 combined 2019 MCP-UTM votes less 2,175,873 combined DPP-UDF votes) to the 72,000,” Chunga said.
Since Namangale critiqued the IPOR survey, many have labelled him a DPP operative .
But observers say it is illogical of Tonse alliance supporters, anyone who does not support their candidate has been bought.
“ You are devoid of any critical thinking in your urbanite elite bubble supporting candidates with urban centric policies. Yet you will be the one cursing the rural when their votes decides the winner. Your ignorance is showing everytime you acquiesce every opinion coming from your camp,” said on posting on Nyasa Times comments section.
A media analyst Jimmy Kainja writes thay while the vote and results will be hotly contested, whoever emerges victorious after 23 June will need to hit the ground running to fix the tanking economy and handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malawi has effectively been in campaign mode since mid-2018, with much effort and energy directed into elections rather than governance. Malawi has a second chance in this election, but a third may be too much to bear.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :