President Uhuru Kenyatta welcomes US President Barack Obama when he visited the country recently. Looking on is US ambassador Godec. FILE | AFP
Kenyans give Barack Obama visit the thumbs up
More than half of Kenyans feel that US President Barack Obama’s visit will bring benefits, according to a recent poll by Ipsos Synovate.
The optimism is higher among Jubilee supporters (66 per cent), compared to Cord (62 per cent).
“The difference is greater than the margin of error. It really is a case of Jubilee supporters’ rising optimism to match that of Cord’s allies, which has always been high,” said the research firm’s boss Tom Wolf.
“The visit by Mr Obama was an indication to Jubilee supporters that the government has no hostility towards the West, as was previously thought,” he said.
The researchers also link the confidence of Jubilee to the fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta was the main figure with whom President Obama interacted, in contrast to the relatively little attention he gave the Cord leadership.
Kenyans expect the visit to bring economic gains such as trade, development and employment.
In the poll, security and counter-terrorism came a distant second, with only a tenth of the people mentioning them as potential benefit.
According to the poll, while many Kenyans expected mainly economic benefits, they viewed the US President’s motivation for Kenya as being tied to security (36 per cent), countering China’s influence (26 per cent) and fighting corruption (21 per cent).
Mr Wolf said the visit changed Kenyans views on foreign relations. He said they now view the US more favourably, with the approval rising from 35 per cent in April to 56 per cent. China’s approval fell from 23 per cent to 15 per cent in the same period.
“It remains to be seen whether this new love for America is permanent or a momentary blip occasioned by the president’s visit,” said Mr Wolf.
“Subsequent polls would be required to see whether the popularity would be sustained,” he said.
This change is mirrored in results associated with supporters of both of the main political groupings Jubilee and Cord supporters.