Alarm bells for political parties

2017-09-03 06:00
Elections in South Africa. Picture: AP

Elections in South Africa. Picture: AP

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If the ANC has been hard at work at turning its fortunes around in the aftermath of the disappointing 2016 municipal elections, then the 4 000 potential voters randomly polled by Ipsos between April and May this year are not convinced it is working.

The nationwide survey – involving South Africans 15 years and older – projected that if the elections were held “the next day”, electoral support for the ANC would for the first time drop below 50%.

According to the survey, it would fall to 47% nationally.

The hardest-hit provinces would be Eastern Cape (42%), Gauteng (44%), Northern Cape (44%) and Limpopo (45%).

President Jacob Zuma’s strongholds – KwaZulu-Natal (59%), Mpumalanga (59%), Free State (57%) and North West (56%) – would be safe, but not enough to push the ANC’s national average above the 50% threshold.

The DA would be at less than 50% in the Western Cape (47%) and would have to count on other, smaller opposition parties to retain it.

The results of the Ipsos survey are consistent with voting trends in recent elections, which show that the ANC’s support is shrinking. In the 2014 general election, the ANC won 62% of the votes and 54% in the 2016 municipal elections.

Although the ANC might be alarmed by the results of the survey, it could take comfort from the finding that its main rivals, the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), were both not showing much growth since the last elections.

In fact the DA, which obtained 22.23% in 2014, dropped to 21%. The EFF, which gained 6.35% in 2014, was at 5%.

But the survey indicates a huge drop of support for the ANC, from 62% to 47%.

Ipsos public affairs director Mari Harris cautions it is still too early to predict the outcome of the 2019 general elections. Harris told City Press that voter sentiment would change.

Part of the reason for this would be the outcome of the ANC’s national elective conference in December.

“Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty and the December conference might bring certainty to a lot of people.

“It also depends on who is elected as party leader at this conference. That will influence whether trust in the ANC will grow [along with support] or whether trust and support will further diminish,” Harris said.

Ipsos flagged voter apathy as an ongoing concern, as witnessed during the municipal election in August last year. About a quarter (24%) of those surveyed by Ipsos earlier this year had not chosen a particular political party – as compared with 44% in July 2016, just before the municipal elections.

“The feeling of alienation from political parties is thus very real,” said Ipsos. Apathetic voters felt there was no political party that expressed their views.

Harris said that in last year’s elections the “undecided” vote was between 15% and 17% in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. The percentage became smaller closer to the election.

“Thus the 24% currently is rather high – but remember it is currently at the midterm point, and people are not very interested in what is happening in politics.”

Ipsos found that overall “the ANC enjoys the highest trust of the three biggest political parties”, but with a “trust score” scarcely above 50%. The trust scores for the different political parties were generally low.


The Ipsos survey indicates that SA’s main political parties, particularly the ANC, have lost support in the aftermath of the 2016 municipal elections. How do you think this will affect the 2019 general elections?

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Read more on:    ipsos

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