2016 Municipal Elections - Where do the parties stand amongst registered voters?

Daniel Moody and Washeelah Kapery, Citizen Surveys with Professor Robert Mattes, University of Cape Town | 26 July 2016

With only a few days until South Africans go to the polls for the 2016 Local Government Elections, the contest for the votes of South Africans has reached fever pitch.

The African National Congress (ANC) is on track to continue its electoral dominance, though to a possibly diminished degree.

Following a continuing trend of weakening electoral support since the 2004 election, the ANC, according to the latest data from the South African Citizens Survey, is set to continue to lose political support.

Figure 1: If the municipal elections were held tomorrow who would you vote for?

Furthermore, the data suggests that approximately 15% of registered voters are still undecided as to which party they will support on Election Day, indicating that while dissatisfaction with the ANC is arguably on the rise, voters remain uncertain about casting their ballots for opposing political parties.

In the most recent (May and June 2016) surveys of a nationally representative sample of 2600 South Africans aged 18 years and older, more than three-quarters of respondents (77%) indicated that they are registered to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. Of those who are registered, approximately 54% indicated that they would vote ANC in the upcoming local government elections (Figure 1). This may suggest a substantial decrease in support, as the ANC won around 60% of the vote nationally in the 2011 municipal elections. However, much depends on how successful they are at wooing the approximately 15% of respondents who say they are still undecided. The weakened level of current support for the ANC can be explained by several factors, among them the ANC-led government's perceived failures on the economy, job creation, and on delivering on its electoral promises in general. This is worsened by perceptions on deteriorating economic conditions and the lack of economic and employment growth.

While there would appear to be increasing dissatisfaction with the ruling party, the two largest opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), although making some inroads, have yet to significantly dent the dominance of the ANC and attract dissatisfied ANC supporters.

The DA, with a projected total of roughly 17% of the vote, and the EFF, with around 10% of the vote, have not yet been able to present themselves to large proportions of the electorate as a realistic alternative to the ANC, perhaps because of Julius Malema's populist and divisive rhetoric or the DA's perceived image as a party rooted in white priviledge, a remnant of an abhorrent past or a party changing merely on the surface, in a cosmetic rather than a substantive sense. These factors may be the root cause of their inability to attract black South African voters.

Perhaps the most revealing results in Figure 1 are the high levels of undecided voters who have yet to pledge allegiance to any political party. On average, 15% of all respondents told interviewers they were still undecided about who to support in the upcoming election. These figures may reflect increased disillusionment about the ANC's ability to deliver on its electoral promises resulting in traditional ANC supporters reconsidering their political allegiances. This might explain why overall support for the ANC has decreased, while those who say they 'don't know who they will vote for' is so large.

Table 2: If the municipal elections were held tomorrow who would you vote for?

Table 1 shows South Africans support for political parties by the four largest racial groups. Resembling common trends in South Africa's voting behaviour, 6 in 10 (65%) black South Africans answered that they would vote for the ANC.

Similarly, 5 in 10 (53%) Coloureds and 8 in 10 (78%) white voters stated they would vote for the DA. The trends are not entirely surprising given the importance of race in South Africa's history, which may have shaped past voting trends. What is interesting, is the low levels of support the DA receives from black South Africans (under 5%), despite its strong efforts to rebrand its image and attract black voters. Table 1 further reveals that the proportion of undecided voters is especially large in the Indian and Coloured community where approximately 1 in 4, even at this late date, say they have not made up their minds how to vote on 3rd August.

Evidence from Figure 2 shows that the ANC is likely to remain dominant in its traditional strongholds of the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and the Free State, where it is set to gain upwards of 50% of the vote. Conversely, the results indicate that the DA holds the advantage in the Western Cape, and has a slight lead over the ANC in the Northern Cape. The EFF, while not yet holding an advantage in any province, is forecast to make strong gains in North West, where it has been active in the Marikana area, and in Limpopo, the home province of Julius Malema, as well as modest gains in the Free State.

Figure 2: If the municipal elections were held tomorrow who would you vote for?

These results suggest that the DA will not win a large percentage of votes in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, provinces which contain municipalities it has targeted as vulnerable and in which it has campaigned rigorously with the aim of gaining the key municipalities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. With that being said, it is important to note that this data is disaggregated by province and not by municipality. Thus, for example, while the ANC is set to gain the majority of votes overall in Eastern Cape, this support is largely derived from rural areas as opposed to urban and metro areas. This is due, as Figure 3 indicates, to the dominance of the ANC in rural South Africa, where the ANC gains almost 60% of the rural vote, compared to around 6% for the DA and 12% for the EFF.

Figure 3: If the municipal elections were held tomorrow who would you vote for?

Lastly, we assess the effects of age on South Africa's voting projections. The results, in Figure 4, show that age has strong bearings on which parties South Africans are likely to vote for.

Figure 3: If the municipal elections were held tomorrow who would you vote for?

The ANC derives similar levels of support from all age categories (around 50% for all age categories). The DA, however, tends to attract support from older generations of South Africans, with relatively little support from South Africa's youth. According to the SA Citizens Survey only around 9% of those aged between 18 and 25 years would vote for the DA, while over a quarter of South Africans older than 55+ said they would. In sharp contrast to the DA, EFF support runs precisely in the opposite direction as the DA's. The EFF gains significantly more support from younger South Africans, 19% of those aged 18 to 24, compared to just 2% of those aged over 55. This of course presents the EFF with a significant problem since young voters are much less likely to be registered to vote, or turnout to vote even if they are registered.

About the South African Citizens Survey

Citizen Surveys has developed the SA Citizens Survey, a monthly tracking survey which asks a battery of socio-economic and political attitudinal questions. The monthly national sample of 1,300 has been designed as a complex multi-stage stratified probability sample, representative of the South African adult population aged 18 years and older across all nine provinces and metro, urban and rural areas. This methodology ensures that the results are representative of the views of the universe and that findings can be weighted and projected to the universe - i.e. South Africans 18 years and older.

Personal face-to-face interviews were conducted in-home using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) and all results were collated and analyzed in an aggregate format to protect the identity and confidentiality of respondents.

Monthly and quarterly weights have been developed and the sample has been reweighted to the latest mid-year population statistics in terms of province, race, gender, age and geographic area type (metro, urban, rural).

For more information about the South African Citizens Survey please contact Citizen Surveys:
Telephone: +27 (21) 447 4484
Email: Info[at]citizensurveys.com