Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has the highest approval rating among party leaders in Kenya. That's according to a recent poll conducted by one of Africa's leading marketing firms.

The poll, conducted by The Steadman Group, found that 41 percent of more than 2,000 Kenyans interviewed named President Kibaki as their favorite leader. Mr. Kibaki heads the ruling National Rainbow Coalition.

Next in line was Kalonzo Musyoka, a prominent official with the rival Orange Democratic Movement Kenya, with 20 percent, followed by Raila Odinga, another prominent Orange Democratic Movement Kenya official, with 13 percent, and two others with five percent or less.

But the respondents chose Orange Democratic Movement Kenya as their favorite political party, followed by the ruling National Rainbow Coalition, then National Rainbow Coalition - Kenya and, lastly, the former ruling party Kenya Africa National Union.

President Kibaki's popularity may come as a surprise to some. He is often criticized for not curbing corruption, failing to deliver a new constitution and not creating the jobs and economic growth he promised in his 2002 election campaign.

Ludeki Chweya is senior political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He tells VOA he thinks those polled were responding to President Kibaki's public personality, rather than his leadership.

"Number One, I would say, he doesn't antagonize," he explained.  "People can say things, and then, sometimes he doesn't respond, and even when he does, he's never personal, he doesn't mention anybody's name. He responds in a very casual way, kind of undisturbed, as if you didn't harm him in any way. In fact, one would think he [would] come out fuming, yet he comes out with a joke."

Despite the popularity of the Orange Democratic Movement Kenya party, the poll found that the government's approval rating as well as that of President Kibaki has increased significantly within the last three months.

A consultant with The Steadman Group, Tom Wolf, tells VOA the pollsters did not ask the respondents why they hold the opinions they do, making it difficult for the pollsters to explain the reasons for the trends.

Wolf warns that the poll should not be used to predict who might win Kenya's next election.

"In an actual election, there will be a far more reduced number of actual candidates," he added.  "At this point, we don't know the political parties, let alone the candidates, who will be on the menu on the ballot. It's extremely unlikely, for example, that the four individuals who split the opposition vote on this poll would all be candidates against the president in the next election, mainly because they've all made public statements saying, whichever one of them would get the nomination, the others would support."

The poll is released ahead of elections, scheduled for sometime next year.