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Over 2 million voters still undecided, say CT-based researchers

File photo.
File photo.

The country's 2.2 million undecided voters will be swayed by political party and political leader preferences, how those parties plan to solve priority issues, and perceptions on who is to blame for the Eskom crisis.

Cape Town-based research company Citizen Survey said on Thursday - just six days before the May 8 national and provincial elections - that this was revealed in analysed public opinions across various categories between December 2018 and April 2019.

In a media statement, the company said there were still about 2.2 million undecided voters. It said that based on a turnout scenario of 73% - or 19.6-million voters who were registered, motivated to vote and would find it easy to get to their polling stations - roughly 11% had not yet made up their minds.

Collectively, the undecided voters were a significant constituency with the potential to significantly alter political party electoral performance, the survey noted.

Reza Omar, strategic research director at Citizen Surveys, said that “to determine a realistic scenario of who undecided voters are leaning towards in the absence of a clear voting decision, Citizen Surveys looked at their preference for a specific political party and then their preference for a political leader".

“By using their preference for a specific party to determine how these voters were leaning, the proportion of undecided voters moves from 11% to 7% or 1.3 million people who truly do not have a clear party preference,” he said. The undecided voters were then analysed in terms of their preference for a particular political leader; which could also impact on voting day behavior," added Omar.

This then reduced the proportion of undecided voters to 3% or just under 700,000 people who were not influenced by political leaders and remained undecided voters.

The impact on estimated political party electoral performance would then give the ANC an increase of about 5% due to the impact of President Cyril Ramaphosa, placing the ANC’s estimated electoral performance at 61% from a baseline of 56%.

The DA would get a small increase attributable to Mmusi Maimane placing the estimated electoral performance of the DA at 20% (from 19%) and would give the EFF a slight increase of 1% due to the preference of Julius Malema, indicating how largely synonymous he was with the party. Other parties’ support would remain unchanged at 5%.

“We have known that President Ramaphosa is an asset to the ANC. We have now come to understand that Ramaphosa is causing a significant portion of undecided voters to lean towards the ANC, boosting its estimated electoral performance to 61%,” said Omar.

“The 3% (just under 700,000 people) truly undecided voters, remain key to these elections. They are weighing up and considering their options before casting their ballots on May 8, rather than opting to withdraw completely. How they chose to vote can influence the outcome of this year’s elections,” he added.

Aside from political party preference and the political leader preference, another factor that could influence who the ‘undecideds’ opted to vote for would be how the parties had managed to position themselves in relation to solving some of the country’s biggest problems, often done via their manifestos and election campaign messaging.

"Often, those voters who make up their minds at the last minute, look to parties that they believe can help solve the issues that most directly impact upon their lives,” said Omar.

In this regard, the ANC was most closely associated with providing basic service delivery such as water, housing, and maintaining roads. This, according to Omar, is unsurprising as the ANC has been the governing party over the past quarter-century.

The EFF, in line with their election manifesto, is strongly associated with reducing corruption. Over the past three years the EFF has protested against corruption, taking a leading role in the #ZumaMustFall movement and have therefore become associated with reducing corruption.

The perceptual positioning of the DA reflects a lack of clear policy and direction, with no strong links to any of the country’s critical challenges, according to the study.

“Although South Africans have been aware of the billions of rands lost to corruption at Eskom over the years, the reality of the situation was brought home during the March power cuts, which affected millions of South Africans and had dire economic repercussions,” said Omar.

He added that despite the lights remaining on in April, the Eskom crisis and the coming load-shedding still weighed heavily on South Africans.

The study revealed that 22% (8.5 million people) blamed the government and an additional 15% specifically mentioned the ANC. Roughly 23% (8.6 million people) blamed Eskom staff (the leadership) for not doing their jobs properly while 21% (7.8 million people) cited state capture.

Load-shedding has had a negative impact on the public’s perceptions of the direction of the country, the estimated electoral performance of the ANC, and on the belief that corruption is increasing as it serves as a very tangible example of the consequences of state capture, the study found.

Omar noted only 6% direct blame towards Ramaphosa for the Eskom crisis. “This corresponds to President Ramaphosa maintaining his relatively high favorability rating (56%), and his ability to help lean undecided voters into the camp of the ANC,” added Omar.

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