As election season enters full tilt, the latest Afrobarometer survey has some interesting findings.
A report by Aforbaromter shows that public confidence underpins system in turmoil. Public confidence in free and fair elections are the lowest they have been since 2000 as the graphic below shows.
The latest survey conducted in August-September 2015 found that while most South Africans are still confident that the electoral system has integrity and elections are free and fair without intimidation or violence.
However, South Africans have become more skeptical about whether elections ensure that voters’ views are represented and that voters are able to remove non-performing leaders from power. Survey responses indicate that if national elections had been held last year, the ANC would have seen its majority shrink while opposition parties gained ground.
The 2015 Afrobarometer survey, conducted before this latest development in the Nkandla scandal, suggest an evolving terrain for South Africa’s opposition. Public trust in opposition parties has tripled since 2002 despite a dip in 2015, while trust in the ANC has dropped sharply over the past four years.
However, less than half of South Africans believe that opposition parties present a viable alternative vision and plan for the country. Furthermore, a majority of citizens say the ANC is better able than the opposition to address national priority areas such as controlling prices, creating jobs, improving health care, and fighting corruption.
Another interesting finding of the survey was citizens’ trust in president, political institutions dropping sharply as the graph below demonstrates.
In South Africa, where economic difficulties and the Nkandla corruption case were making headlines at the time of the latest Afrobarometer survey in August-September 2015, both performance and perceived corruption could be contributory factors to a dramatic drop in public trust.
Survey findings show that citizens’ trust in the president has dropped by almost half since 2011, from 62% to 34%, its second-lowest level since the first survey in 2000. Trust in members of Parliament (MPs), provincial premiers, local government councils, the ruling party, and opposition parties has also declined dramatically, making political leaders the least-trusted public officials in the country. Trust in the president is lowest of all 18 institutions and leaders that the survey asked about.
Among state institutions, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the police, and courts of law lost trust over the past four years. Trust in the tax department (South African Revenue Services, or SARS), the Office of the Public Protector, and the National Prosecuting Authority remained stable. The broadcast media enjoys high public trust; the independent broadcasting service is the only one of the 18 institutions to enjoy a major increase in trust, climbing from 69% in 2011 to 79%.