Kampala — President Museveni, the NRM presidential candidate, maintains a lead in the 2016 presidential race, according to findings of a new opinion poll.
The poll that was conducted between December 19, 2015, and January 10, gives President Museveni 51 per cent ahead of his closest rival Dr Kizza Besigye at 32 per cent.
A candidate requires 50 per cent plus one vote of the valid votes cast to be declared president, and results of an opinion poll released yesterday showed Mr Museveni would have obtained 51 per cent, with only 28 days left to the February 18, presidential election.
With a margin of error of +/-5, it statistically means the President could have obtained 56 per cent or 46 per cent of the votes, posing a likelihood of him losing the first round and forcing a re-run.
Research World International, a Kampala-based research firm, conducted the survey in partnership with NTV Uganda and Uganda Governance Monitoring platform.
It shows that the FDC presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, with 32 per cent, and Independent candidate Amama Mbabazi at 12 per cent, have made substantial gains since the campaigns began and are closing in on Mr Museveni.
According to the poll, 51 per cent of the 2,685 respondents polled said they would vote Mr Museveni, 32 per cent said they would vote Dr Besigye, a fourth-time Museveni challenger, Mr Mbabazi, who is making a first attempt at the presidency under the Go-Forward platform, would get 12 per cent.
This is a one percentage point drop in Mr Mbabazi's score from RWI's August 2015 survey.
According to the new poll, the five other presidential candidates - Dr Abed Bwanika, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Ms Maureen Kyalya, Maj Gen Benon Biraro and Mr Joseph Mabirizi - combined would get 1 per cent.
Four per cent of all respondents were undecided, the pollster reported.
In RWI's August 2015 poll, covering 2,320 respondents, 55 per cent said they would vote President Museveni while 17 per cent would vote Dr Besigye, meaning Dr Besigye has gained 15 per cent over the last five months.
Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director Uganda Media Centre and deputy NRM spokesperson, who spoke at the launch of the findings, said: "I am impressed that the rating is consistent in general terms that NRM and President Museveni are leading. This gives NRM more work and I can assure you we are going to concentrate in the next 28 days especially on the young people to get our message across."
President Museveni, who has traditionally enjoyed strong support among women, still leads among that segment of the population with more than half of female voters choosing him over other candidates.
Dr Besigye had more support among male voters at 40 per cent, compared to three in every 10 women. Mr Mbabazi had 13 and 11 per cent support among female and male voters respectively.
The poll was to assess the "opinions and perceptions of voting-age Ugandans on the 2016 general election", and follows a number of polls conducted since the electoral exercise kicked off last November.
A separate poll commissioned by the Daily Monitor and conducted by Infotrak, a Kenyan firm, between December 6-9, 2015, found that out of 1,500 voters sampled, 59.9 per cent indicated they would back Mr Museveni's bid for a fifth term - with Dr Besigye coming second with 20.9 per cent support.
Mr Mbabazi got 5.9 per cent while 12.2 per cent indicated they were undecided.
An Afro-barometer poll conducted earlier between May 7 - 26, last year, gave Mr Museveni 65 per cent lead and Dr Besigye 15 per cent. The poll was conducted before Mr Mbabazi had declared his intention to run for office.
The pollsters in the latest poll also set out to find the views of the voters on who they would vote for if one of the two principal Opposition candidates was not in the race but with President Museveni running against one of them.
At least 57 per cent of the respondents said they would vote for President Museveni if he were running against Mr Mbabazi, who would have been supported by only 24 percent, if the duo were the only ones in the race.
By comparison, 53 per cent said they would vote for President Museveni against Dr Besigye's 39 per cent, if they were the only ones in the race.
When a question "will you vote in the upcoming 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections?" was posed to the respondents, 96 per cent said they would. Only 3 per cent were undecided.
The voter turnout in the past three general elections has been on a steady decline. In 2001, it was 70.3 per cent of the registered voters.
It reduced to 68 per cent in 2006 and fell further to 59.2 per cent in 2011.
In terms of regions, the poll indicates that President Museveni has the upper hand against his opponents in all the four major regions of the country except the capital, Kampala, where Dr Besigye leads.
In central region, 45 per cent said they support him, 59 per cent in eastern, 53 percent in northern, 52 per cent in western and only 33 per cent in Kampala.
Dr Besigye enjoyed 35 per cent support in central region, 28 per cent in eastern, 26 per cent in northern, 33 per cent in western and 41 per cent in Kampala.
Mr Mbabazi had 9 per cent support in central region, 8 per cent in eastern, 14 per cent in northern, 14 per cent in western and 17 per cent in Kampala.
Dr Besigye continued to lead in his traditional urban areas with 43 per cent against President Museveni's 38 per cent. The incumbent has also kept his rural support base where he led with 57 per cent against Dr Besigye's 27 per cent.
On the question of when President Museveni - who has been in power for 30 years - should finally retire, four in every 10 of the respondents said he should have left before the current elections while 17 per cent said he should not run again if he wins the coming election.
Less than 10 per cent each believed he should rule forever or were unsure if he should leave power.
The numbers of those who are pro or against change were close with 49 per cent saying "no change" while 46 per cent said they want a change of president.
More women (54 per cent) than men (39 per cent) supported the maintenance of the status quo.
After 30 years in power, President Museveni's name at 100 per cent was the most recognised in all the demographics sampled.
Dr Besigye who has challenged him four times followed at 97 per cent while Mr Mbabazi was at 92 per cent.