By Prudence Minayo
For years, Tom Wolf worked as the Chief research analyst, public affairs, for IPSOS Synovate Kenya, a French owned market research, media monitoring and survey company. Considered the third largest media monitoring and survey company, they have branches in over 84 countries including more than 10 in Africa. They have conducted a number of polls in Kenya with Dr. Tom Wolf made a number of media appearances as the lead researcher.
He quit the research firm in 2019. Here is the story of Tom Wolf-the researcher and musician who plays with the Hootenanny Band as told by WoK.
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Early Career and Education
Originally from Detroit, USA, he came to Kenya in 1967 as the third group of secondary school peace corps teachers. He was fresh out of Oberlin college and exhausted from all the hard work, this was an opportunity for something new and interesting. He actually got involved with the group accidentally. He worked for three years as a teacher in Dr. Aggrey Boys Secondary School in Wundanyi Taita. The researcher can speak both Taita and Swahili.
He would then pursue a Master of Arts in African Studies at Ohio University before returning to Kenya to conduct fieldwork about local political leadership in his area of peace corps services. Later, he graduated with a doctorate from University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.
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Wolf then began working in Kenya and became a lecturer of Comparative Politics at the University of Nairobi. He also coordinated study abroad programs for Kalamazoo College, Penn State University and the 5- College Program based at Umass/ Amherst. The analyst also served as Democracy/Governance Advisor to the USAID Kenya mission.
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In 2003, he was engaged by a local monitoring and evaluation firm to conduct the first Kenyan Afrobarometer survey. This would pave the way for him to work as a lead researcher with IPSOS Synovate. He would then go on to become the face of opinion polling in Kenya following a series of presentations of results leading up to the 2005 referendum. The 2005 opinion polls are considered Kenya’s most accurate with all firms involved predicting a landslide No result on the Amos Wako constitutional draft.
While most polls after that have been stained by rumors of political interference, he continues to do his work and would at times release very controversial surveys. Among his most talked about surveys is one dubbed First Quarter Social , Political, Economic and Cultural (SPEC) Survey. The survey report listed some of the most corrupt people in Kenya. The survey indicated that over a third of its respondents viewed the current deputy president William Ruto and Anne Waiguru as the most corrupt political leaders in Kenya. Aden Duale also made it on the list. The deputy president said the opinion survey was paid for and the data was too politically correlated to be meaningful. Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru also questioned its credibility.
Tom Wolf defended the survey saying it was based on the opinions of a number of Kenyans scattered in different parts of the country.
In 2018, IPSOS had also released a survey saying William Ruto was the most preferred presidential candidate come 2022 , followed by Raila Odinga, Gideon Moi and finally Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho.
In 2019, speculations were rife that he had been fired from IPSOS. He would later say the firm had given him notice that his position would become redundant on 31st March. He thanked Kenyans for their support saying that the surveys have contributed to the expansion of the democratic space through amplifying the voices of Kenyans. In a KTN interview, he would say that he did not know and might never know the real reason he was let go from his job.
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