Background of the study
As at 2015, the world’s population stood at 7 billion people with the figure expected to balloon to nearly 8 billion in 2018. Of this population 14% consist of the youth (FAO, 2015). The population of the youth in Kenya is among the highest in the world (Business Daily, 2017). This continued growth in population of the youth has led to several challenges of limited opportunities for employment, poor pay and limited entrepreneurial ventures (FAO, 2014). In Kenya, the demographics are no exception, the youth constitute the largest proportion of the population. They however tend to be marginalized and underrepresented in leadership spheres Mutuku (2009)
There are various definition of the composition and age bracket that constitute the youth (The Youth Congress 2015). In Kenya, Article 260 of Kenya’s Constitution the youth who are between the age of 18 and 34 (Constitution of Kenya, 2010) constitute the largest sector of Kenya’s population as per the 2009 country census. The youth consisted of 36.2% of the total population (United nations Populations (UNFPA), 2013). With this majority however, their representation in the formal institutions of the government, the state as well as the newly devolved units within the counties is minimal. So is their involvement in political parties and thus the need to empower them for better involvement as opposed to using them as just a means to an end every five year that the electoral cycle comes through. With their increased involvement in the process, it would be expected that they would positively impact the government and governance in the country.
Moreover, the youth are rarely actively involved in active politics nor do they have permanent party standings. While the levels of civil engagements such as civil education could be attributed for the low participation, more on the same needs to be investigated. The strength and modes of participation are pertinent variables in political scrutiny (Robertson, 2009). Humans’ voting conduct is an essential feature and a gateway of understanding the willingness of respondents. In democratic and egalitarian societies, voting is a significant instrument providing opportunities to the respondents to become vibrant citizens instead of inactive subjects.
To recognize on what grounds one candidate wins or loses an election; can only be understood by identifying voting behavior. Sociologists have long focused on the affiliation of individuals with their own ethnic group, social background as the key determinants of voting behavior while political scientist in the past have argued on the influence of party membership and voting conduct.
Eldersveld, (1951) in his article “Theory and Method in Voting Behavior Research” define the term “voting behavior” as an area of study focus that looks into the political phenomena that has been ignored for quite some time. While it looks into records and statistics of votes, it also considers the computation of electoral swings and shifts. Moreover, it considers the analysis of the individual voter’s psychological process which relates to the emotions, motivation and perceptions of the voters. All this is related to the political actions, institutional patterns and the impact on election and the process of communication.
On their part Biea and Bratucu (2016) describe voting behavior as a study field that is concerned with how people vote in a public election and the reasoning behind this. This part of the definition has been expanded to look into the human political behavior while in the context of public electoral voting. The study seeks to examine the human mind in relation to the political process of voting and thus constitute an integral part of political science theory which political scientist seeks to qualitatively and systematically test and measure.
Several factors on voting behavior have been highly researched on. The youth have been found to vote along the same lines as their parents as Rundio (2008) concluded, most of the youth parental political influence is high on the youth with them voting on the same line as their parents. In this case, if the parents are American Republicans, their children are more likely to vote on the same line. This thus tunes to the direction of party affiliations as some of the strong factors that could be guiding the voting behavior of the youth only that it is highly influenced by the parents’ party affiliations.
Bennett (1997) associated the voting behaviors of the youth to the low trust levels that the United States youths have on the politicians. This thus calls for the politicians, direct appeal to the youth for them to increase their likelihood of getting votes from the youths. This led to candidates having to struggle to directly appeal to potential young voters as was the case with former President Bill Clinton who appeared on a television show in an effort to appeal to the young voters (Ifill. 1992).
Sherrod, (2003) also noted that the involvement of the youth in civic affairs is more likely to influence the youth’s involvement in the electoral process. This is more so when the youth become involved in civic engagements while at a lower age grooming them to become civically active adults. While this may start from the lower ages such as during the high school age, there is no assurance that the same will continue with time to their adulthood. This balancing act becomes delicate as even the previous studies have not identified a clear line of what exactly affects the youth engagement in the electoral process or one that could explain their voting behavior.
Universal suffrage which entails the ability of all eligible adults to vote has also contributed significantly to shaping voting behavior in the world and in Africa. The fact that voting was only allowed based on particular social aspects per region has influenced voting conduct. There was a time when only affluent males could vote. This later moved to include other males but not females. Eventually, women have acquired the rights to vote although there are places where this is yet to be fully functional, (Miller, 2008).
Kajiado County is a county within the former Rift Valley Province of Kenya with a population of 687,312 as per the 2009 country census bordering the larger Nairobi County and the Republic of Tanzania to the south. The country has its capital in Kajiado town. Kajiado county is highly reliant on wildlife tourism although other income generating activities are practiced; like agriculture and trading. Its proximity to the capital Nairobi and the stretching to the Tanzanian boarder makes the county unique. Kajiado county is populated by diverse ethnic groups which mainly include the Maasai, Nandi, Kisii and Kikuyu and factions of other tribes who have over time moved into this county due to varying reasons. It has a high percentage of youth in its demographic composition. Its these unique characteristics of the county that attracts the interest of this study (The County Government of Kajiado, 2017).
1.2. Statement of the Problem
While studies have shown the role of the youth as a dynamic portion of the Kenyan population, there are several challenges that could be hindering them to be actively involved in active participation and the building of democracy in Kenya (Njonjo, 2010).
The Kenya youth policy gets a review every now and then with the government seeking to address the issues that affect the youth in Kenya. The progress on the achievements of the same have been slow and focused more towards social economic activities. Representation of the youth in parliament and sound engagement in civic activities has not been consistent and progressive despite the numbers they command (Republic of Kenya, 2006); (Constitution of Kenya,2010). There has been significant effort on the part of the government to address challenges faced by the youth by use of the youth policy and building up on it through the creation of the National youth council and further, the youth strategic plan 2007-2012. The consistent allocation of development funds to the youth and lack of equal change among the youth could be addressed in a multi-faceted approach including civic involvement and empowerment which is not well addressed at the moment.
The study on how the youths vote has been a point interest for political scientists as notes Armstrong (2008). On his side, Bennett, (1997) feels that the youth are left out in politics and less engaged. He notes that in 1972 in the United States, the youths who had just attained the legal voting age of 18 were expected to show up in large numbers and vote in the elections. They were expected to have been affected by the policies in place especially the Vietnam war would push them in an effort to change the existing policies. They however, to the surprise of many scientist, showed up the lowest turnout. This brought out the idea of disinterest in politics among the youths and the generation.
Moreover, the other challenge that the electoral cycle in Kenya faces relates to voter apathy and political alienation. Voter apathy which is the perceived decline in interest or caring among the voters which is characterized by lower than normal voter turnout (Kelley, Phillips ; Blackman, 1977) has been the characteristic case in Kenya. The worst case was in the October 2017 repeat presidential election which saw a turnout of less than 34%, (BBC, 2017). Political alienation may also have played part in the repeat election where a section of the voters feels discriminated against by the current political system, (Shannon, 2011). Such could have been the case with the Kenyan youth where some could feel underrepresented as argued out by Glasberg ; Shannon, (2010) on their case on political alienation where the victims feels that their interest and concerns are not put into consideration. The Kenyan youth could have the same feeling.
Their major involvement in the electoral process would be unmistaken and unavoidable during the campaign period. They form majority of the people who are actively involved in the campaign process. Makori (2015) notes other major events that the youths were instrumental in is during the 2007 Kenyan post-election violence as well as the 2010 promulgation of the New Constitution 2010. Muhula (2009) noted that the participation of the Kenyan youth was central to all the violence that happened. They may not have been as participative in the electoral process as they were in the violence, one cannot therefore ignore their involvement in the whole process.
This study seeks to looks into the voting behaviors of the youth in close analysis. The research believes that the youth constitutes a very important role in the whole economy of the country. Voting is a means through which the citizens express their opinion on the kind of leadership they want till the next electoral cycle. This study seeks to understand why the youths vote the way they do in Kajiado County. It seeks to determine since ethnic, cultural, integrational factors, party ideologies and legal aspects are some of the factors that affect individual’s voting behaviors, to what extent if any does these factors affect the youths of Kajiado County.