By Dr. Kioko Ireri

Kioko Ireri, Associate Professor of Journalism & Mass Communication and two graduate students have published a research on knowledge gap in public affairs among Kenyans. The two students are Jimmy Ochieng and Alex Roberts – both pursuing MA in Communication Studies.

Published in the current issue of African Journalism Studies, the exploratory study examines the knowledge gap hypothesis in the Kenyan context. Specifically, using education as an indicator of socioeconomic status (SES), the study explores the overall knowledge on public affairs among people in Nairobi. Also, in line with the knowledge gap hypothesis, the study investigates whether Kenyans of high SES are more knowledgeable about public affairs than those of low SES. Relatedly, the research examines the variance on public affairs knowledge when compared by gender and local public affairs vs. international topics.
The findings confirm the knowledge gap theory hypothesis which stipulates that people of high SES in society are more knowledgeable in public affairs than their counterparts of low SES. Specifically, doctorate degree graduates were found to know more in public affairs (64%) than other education levels. They are followed by undergraduate degree holders with 54% and high school graduates 53%. MA degree holders had an average knowledge score of 52%, and those with primary school education 48%. When analyzed by demographics, male Kenyans are more knowledgeable about public affairs (72%) than their female colleagues (64%). In terms of marital status, married Kenyans appear more knowledgeable, while Protestants and Roman Catholic members recorded higher scores in public affairs than other religious groupings. By topics, Kenyans are more highly conversant with local public affairs (75%) compared to international topics (56%).

The survey was used to collect the data from a convenience sample of 1,000 respondents in 10 neighborhoods of Nairobi. The 10 locations are Zimmerman, Kahawa Sukari, Nairobi West, South B, Parklands, Westlands, Garden City, Kasarani, Thome, and the Central Business District (CBD).

Students taking MAC6020: Communication Theories instructed by Ireri in Spring 2016 collected the survey data. A previous version of the paper was presented at the International Communication Association-Africa conference held in Nairobi from October 19 - 21, 2016.