Kenya: Facing Election Test, Kenya Can Look to Popular Support for the Rule of Law, Survey Shows

6 September 2017
press release

Accra, Ghana — Popular support for the rule of law is one of Kenya's strengths as it confronts an electoral crisis in the wake of the annulled presidential contest of August 8, Afrobarometer survey findings suggest.

Based on a national survey conducted last October, more Kenyans trust the courts than the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and fully three-quarters of citizens expect the president to obey the courts even if he thinks they're wrong.

Public perceptions of the country's democracy were on an upward swing ahead of the August presidential election, which has been challenged by the opposition and annulled by the Supreme Court.

Key findings

- As of late 2016, Kenyans expressed more trust in the courts of law (52% said they trust them "somewhat" or "a lot") than in the national electoral commission (38%) (Figure 1).

- Popular trust in both these institutions has gone up and down over time. After peaking in 2011, trust declined for both courts and the electoral commission. But trust is higher now than it was for either institution in the aftermath of the violent 2007 election.

- Kenyans value the rule of law. Fully three-quarters (75%) of all citizens expect the president to "always obey the laws and the courts, even if he thinks they are wrong," a strong majority that has held constant since 2011 (Figure 2).

- Encouragingly, almost as many Kenyans think the president actually does observe the rule of law. Some 70% said he "never" or "rarely" ignores court rulings.

- Almost two-thirds (63%) of Kenyans consider their country "a full democracy" or "a democracy with minor problems," an improvement of 20 percentage points from responses in 2008 and 2011. Similarly, a majority (56%) said last October that they were "fairly satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the way democracy was working in Kenya, up from 42% in 2008 (Figure 3).


Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa. Six rounds of surveys were implemented between 1999 and 2015. Round 7 surveys (2017/2018) are currently underway; results are released as fieldwork is completed.

Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent's choice with nationally representative samples of adult citizens.

The Afrobarometer team in Kenya, led by the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, interviewed 1,599 adult Kenyans in September-October 2016. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys were conducted in Kenya in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014.

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