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17 March 2009

How will South Africans vote in the upcoming elections?

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

The African National Congress (ANC) remains the most popular party among voters, but with less than a majority at 47%. The DA seems on course to maintain its official opposition status with 7% of the electorate saying they would vote for the party. More voters, at 3%, expressed preference for the newly formed Congress of the People (COPE) over the other old, established parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Independent Democrats (ID) with only 2% and 1% respectively, saying that they would get their votes.

The data for this survey was gathered among 6 613 randomly-selected participants in mid-December 2008 as part of the 2008 round of the annual South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS), conducted by the HSRC since 2003. Dr Mbithi wa Kivilu, head of the surveys unit at the HSRC, said it is important to note that a large percentage of the respondents (40%) either indicated that that they did not intend to vote (12%), refused to answer the specific question (12%), were undecided (13%), or chose a party with less than 1% support (3%). This undecided vote, could still play a significant role in the end result of the elections.

Wa Kivilu said if the respondents who said they would not vote were excluded from the analysis, the ANC received 54% of the votes, the DA 8%, COPE 3%, the IFP 2% and ID by 1% as indicated in the table below.

Table: Percentage of respondents by party of choice, excluding those who would not vote but including respondents who were undecided or refused to answer the specific question.

Description of the sample

The racial profile of a nationally representative sample of 6 613, comprising 58% female and 42% male participants, was 60% Africans, 17% coloureds, 11% Indians/Asians and 13% whites. The weighted racial distribution of the sample was as follows: Africans, 76%; coloureds, 9%; Indians/Asians, 3%; and whites, 11%. These percentages are in agreement with the SA population profile of StatsSA.

An analysis of the age profile, was as follows: 43% were between 16 – 34 years old ; 37% between 35-54 years; and 21% 55 years and older. Only 6% had no schooling; 17% had primary education, 36% secondary, 28% Grade12/matric; 7% a diploma and 6% a degree or above. A substantial portion of 36% had no income; 37% earned R1.00 to R1 500 per month (p m); 18% earned R1 501-7500 p m; 5% R7 501-R15 000 p m ; and only 3% earned more than R15 000 p m.

Provincial voting patterns

More than half of the electorate in five provinces indicated that they would vote for the ANC. The ruling party was most popular in Limpopo (79%) followed by Mpumalanga (68%), North West (57%), Eastern Cape (55%), and the Free State (52%). The Western Cape was evenly contested by the ruling party and the official opposition with each party getting 20%.

In the other three provinces, Northern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC remained the most popular choice among the electorate. COPE and the DA vied for the spot of the second most popular party in the Eastern Cape, with both parties getting 4% support. But the DA had the edge over COPE and the rest of the opposition parties in Northern Cape (13%), Gauteng (10%), North West (7%) and in the Free State, where voters cited it as the second most popular party. KwaZulu-Natal remained the IFP strong-hold at 9%.

The Eastern Cape and KZN yielded interesting trends. Jacob Zuma’s presidency of the ANC did not seem to have improved the popularity of the party (37%) in KZN, whilst the ANC remained fairly popular in the Eastern Cape.

Gender, education, income and race

Support for the ruling party is particularly strong among women, at 50%, compared to 45% among men; those with no schooling (63%), decreasing gradually with an increase in education levels to 55% at primary; 53% at secondary; 42% at Grade 12/matric; 30% diploma; and 26% degree/postgraduate. Accordingly, the highest proportion of support for the ANC was found among those earning between R1.00 and R750 (65%); no income (48%) decreasing to 10% for those earning R15 000 and above.

Conversely, support for DA and COPE increased with increase in education. For the DA, support increased from a low of 1% among those with no schooling to 15% among those with diploma, and 23% with a degree and/or a postgraduate qualification. For COPE, support increased from a low of 1% for those with no schooling, to 5% for those with a diploma and degree/postgraduate education. In terms of personal monthly income, support for the DA was highest among those earning R750-R10 000 (30%) and R15 000 and over (26%), and lowest among the poor, earning R1.00-R 750 (2%) and 4% among those without any income. Support for COPE was highest among those earning R7 501- R10 000 (5%).

Africans remain the core constituency for the ANC with 58% saying they would vote for the ruling party, whilst only a 2% of the white electorate expressed support for the ANC. Among the coloureds and Indians the ANC support stood at 24% and 17% respectively. The DA had its support base among the whites (39%); coloureds (21%) and Indians/Asians (8%). Only 1% of Africans said they would vote for the DA. Support for COPE was evenly spread across the race groups, with 4% among whites and 3% each among Africans, Indians/Asians and coloureds. The ID had its strongest support among the coloureds (5%), and the IFP among Africans (2%).

Compared by age group, support for the ANC was highest among respondents in the 25-34 age group (52%), followed by 46% in the group 18-24 years old, decreasing gradually with an increase in age to 43% among those 65 and older. Unlike the ANC, the DA’s support increased with increase in age from a low of 4% among 18-24 year olds, to 14% among those 65 and older. Similarly, COPE had the highest proportion of support among 18-54 and those 65 and older, at 3%, dropping to 2% among the 55-64 year olds.

Abstain, refusals and undecided

Of the total population of the electorate, 12% indicated that they would not vote; 13% were uncertain, or did not know which party they would vote for, and 12% refused to answer the specific question. Equal proportions of male and female respondents would not vote in upcoming national and provincial elections, but a higher proportion of female (14%) than male (11%) respondents indicated that they were uncertain/did not know.

Looking at race groups, coloureds and Indians/Asians (14% each) were most likely not to vote, while whites (11%) were least likely not to vote. The highest proportion of those who did not intend to vote was found in Gauteng (18%) North West (15%) and Mpumalanga (14%), while the lowest was recorded in the Eastern Cape (8%) and Limpopo (8%).

The highest proportions of undecided voters were found among Indians/Asians (22%) and coloureds (21 percent). Africans had 11% and whites 13% undecided voters. The proportion of undecided voters was highest among residents of the Western Cape (23%) and Northern Cape (16%), and the lowest in Limpopo (3%).

A higher proportion among the Indians/Asians (27%) refused to disclose the political party they would vote for, followed by whites (25%) than in the other race groups. Refusals were mostly found in KZN (27%), among those aged 45-64 years (18%), with a diploma (22%) and/or a degree/postgraduate qualification (20%) and among those earning R15 000 and over (30%) per month. Refusals were lowest in the Northern Cape (2%) and LP (3%), among 18-24 year olds (8%), those with secondary level of education (8%) and no income (7%).

The outcome of the upcoming elections promises to reconfigure South Africa’s political landscape. Though the ANC remains the most popular party, it may emerge with a reduced majority and fewer provinces under its control. The Western Cape is highly contested, and it is unlikely that any one party will receive an outright majority, necessitating a coalition government with other parties. It appears unlikely that COPE will win any provinces, but it may establish a foot-hold in the various provincial legislatures, buoyed by white and middle-class voters.