There has been a major shift in ANC voter thinking ahead of next month’s elections

 ·11 Apr 2019

New research on voter motivations from the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg shows that Cyril Ramaphosa has emerged as the most important influence on voter support in the coming elections.

The research, which investigates what drives voter preferences, is the second in a three-year study being conducted by the CSDA.

The aim of the study is to monitor in what ways socio-economic rights are likely to shape voting behaviour in a constitutional democracy and in an upper middle-income country that has a fairly well-developed welfare system.

“We pose the question: to what extent are government performance in the delivery of socioeconomic rights, perceptions of corruption and issues of governance likely to influence voter preferences in the run-up to the 2019 national general elections?” the researchers said.

Voter preferences

The study is based on over 3,400 survey responses from a demographically representative sample, which represents approximately 38 million potential voters.

When asked which party they would vote for in the next election, most respondents said the ANC (56% up from 53% previously), followed by the DA (13% down from 22% previously) and the EFF (9% up from 6% previously).

Only 4% of respondents said that they would not vote (compared to 5% previously) and 5% refused to answer (down from 6% previously).

ANC supporters feel Ramaphoria

Respondents were asked the reason for their party choice, with the option to select up to five reasons.

The most common reason that respondents in the full sample gave for supporting a party was that they believed the party would bring a better life (65%) (2017: 32%), followed by the party brought freedom and democracy to South Africa (62%) (2017: 35%) and they trust the party (62%) (2017: 37%).

“Unlike the previous (2017) study, where party loyalty was not a predictor of voting behaviour, a significant shift has occurred since then. In 2018, party loyalty emerged as a predictor of voter choice,” the researchers said.

This was particularly noticeable among ANC supporters, where trust in the presidency has gone hand-in-hand with a boost in ANC loyalty.

“It appears that trust in president Ramaphosa may have rekindled loyalty to the party that brought freedom and democracy to South Africa,” the researchers said.

The study found that the political changes that have occurred in South Africa since 2017 are likely to have a major influence on voter preferences in the run-up to the 2019 national general elections.

“The leadership changes in the governing party and in the government appear to have bolstered trust in the president and are a significant predictor of voting behaviour.

“For each unit of trust in the presidency (on a five-point scale), the chances of preferring the ANC over an opposition party increased by 58.9%.”

When Cyril Ramaphosa is removed from the comparison, governance is no longer a predictor of voter preference, the researchers said.

“However, when inserted as a factor on its own and independent of trust in institutions, trust in the presidency emerges as the single most important predictor of voter preference for the governing party.”

Other findings from the study include:

  • Concerns about corruption remain uppermost in the minds of voters. 70% of potential voters believe that corruption increased in the past year and this remains a significant predictor of voter preference.
  • Those who believe that corruption has increased, those who are wealthier, and those who have higher levels of education are more likely to prefer an opposition party to the ANC.
  • Voter preferences are influenced by the desire for socio-economic well-being and the hope of a better life. Socio-economic well-being was selected by 65% of respondents as one of the main reasons for their party choice.
  • Older persons and those with lower income are more likely to prefer the ANC than opposition parties.
  • Race was a predictor in 2017 and continues to be the case in 2018, with black African voters being more likely to select the ANC than an opposition party. Although some changes were observed between the two waves between white and coloured persons who indicated supporting the ANC, these were not statistically significant over the two waves.
  • Trust in President Cyril Ramaphosa, coupled with a renewed support for the party of liberation, appears to be a significant driver of voter choice for the ANC versus the opposition as the election draws closer.
  • 34% of respondents said they support land expropriation without compensation and 46% support land expropriation with compensation, while 20% said they did not know.

This is how various election polls gauge voter support for the 2019 elections, compared to 2014 results:

Read: 10 things you need to know a month before election day

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter