ANC support at record low: survey

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is on course to secure just over half of the vote in next year’s elections – its worst-ever result – a poll commissioned by the Institute of Race Relations showed.

52% of 978 registered voters interviewed by phone between 22 August and 4 September said they would support the ANC, while 23% backed the Democratic Alliance and 13% the Economic Freedom Fighters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Victory Research on behalf of the Johannesburg-based research institute. The survey had a margin of error of 3%.

Should the poll prove an accurate barometer of voter preferences, it would indicate the ANC has yet to recover from former President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred rule, during which its share of the ballot plummeted to 54% in a 2016 municipal vote, from 62% in national elections two years earlier.

The ruling party forced Zuma to step down in February and named Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him.

The survey showed that the EFF, which won 8% of the vote in 2016, has won over many disenchanted ANC supporters with its push to force the ruling party to adopt populist policies, such as expropriating land without compensation, said Gareth van Onselen, the SAIRR’s head of politics and governance.

“Alienated black ANC voters have responded to the EFF’s ability to dominate ANC policy and, already favorable to the EFF, chosen to align with it rather than the ANC,” he said.

“It means that the ANC’s strategic decision to nullify the EFF by attempting to pander to and adopt its policies has backfired dramatically.”

Ramaphosa said in an address in New York on Monday that the country would hold national elections before the end of May next year, and he expects the ANC to regain lost ground. The 106-year-old party has held power since the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994.

The SAIRR survey’s other finding include:

  • Support for the EFF is fragile and a low voter turnout could see it lose out to the DA, currently the second-largest party.
  • No party is on course to win an outright majority in the central Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital.
  • A lack of jobs, drug abuse and crime were seen by respondents as the three most pressing issues the government needed to tackle.
  • Addressing land reform was considered the lowest of 13 possible priorities suggested by the institute, despite the issue having dominated public discourse over recent months.

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ANC support at record low: survey