Malawi paper carrying opinon poll on presidential candidates

Malaw’s Nation Publications Limited is carrying an opinion poll on who would be the next Head of State.

The media house has been conducting surveys which its results are published in its weekly title the Nation on Sunday.

This week it is asking: If elections would be held today, who would you vote for?

  • Atupele Muluzi (AM)
  • John Tembo (JT)
  • Joyce Banda (JB)
  • Peter Mutharika (PM)

Muluzi was selected by opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2014 elections while President Banda  -the incumbent – was also choosen  by ruling People’s Party to be its presidential torchbearer.

Tembo is yet to get the nod of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to have the third-time lucky in the presidential elections while Peter Mutharika is also set  to formally elected as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate.

Opinion polls can be a very useful tool in gauging public perception towards several things, including ascertaining voter preferences ahead of elections.

However, in the previous survey the paper  irked State House on asking people to vote YES if they agree that President Joyce Banda should personally be distributing maize or NO if they do not agree.

Presidential Press Secretary Steven Nhlane said the newspaper’s survey is “not genuine” and wondered why a professional newspaper group like Nation Publications Limited “should sink so low as to fake a survey.”

Nhlane argued that to make the results credible,  the newspaper “ should also make the methodology and voting process very transparent.”

He said “ Macra [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority] should also closely monitor all future surveys because it is clear some people are abusing the mobile phone voting facility for their own selfish agenda.”

Jurgen Hofrichter, a German election researcher at the International Institute for Journalism in Berlin, who is also director of election research at Infratest dimap, one of Germany’s opinion poll institutes, said the opinion polls can be used to establish citizens’ satisfaction with their government’s performance on key sectors such as the economy, provision of social services, living standards as well as on general policies and the direction the country is taking at a given time and under a given leadership.

Hofrichter observes that for opinion polls to be regarded as useful, reliable, and credible and to be consumed by the public with confidence and trust, certain crucial factors have to be taken into consideration.

According to Hofrichter, these include transparency in the organisation, gathering and processing of poll data; a good reputation on the part of the organization carrying out the opinion poll; an appropriate medium that has a good image in the court of public opinion so that results are not questioned; the methodology used in conducting the poll and its limitations; the exact date when the poll was done; the margin of error of the poll results and the percentage number of undecided voters.

There is also the question of the representativeness of those sampled or polled in terms of class, ethnicity or gender.

The newspaper says  it conducts face-to-face interviews for the survey . The poll also uses  the social networking platform Facebook and the short messaging service (SMS).

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