Whether democracy relates to the social experiences of people and serves their social needs determines its legitimacy in Africa. Loss of confidence and public trust in the system of democracy leads to lower levels of participation in elections, voter apathy and declining trust in political parties and political leadership.
These were some of the findings shared at the Voting Behaviour seminar on Tuesday, 2 October 2018, at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Bunting Road Campus. In 2013, the Centre of Social Development in Africa (CSDA) conducted a study on three poor communities in South Africa, investigating the voting behaviour of poor voters. The results of this study, though insightful, are limited to the three communities investigated.
“As the 2019 national election draws closer, service-delivery protests are increasing in local communities in a context of high joblessness, a lack of economic growth and the rising cost of food and daily necessities. Service-delivery failures have been cited as the reason for loss of confidence in the ruling party,” said Prof Leila Patel, Director and South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development at UJ.
“If a shift is indeed occurring away from party loyalty and party identification as the main factors influencing voter preferences, it is likely that the implementation of socio-economic policies that will lead to real improvements in people’s lives will feature more prominently in voter preferences,” added Prof Patel.
Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for Study and Democracy at UJ said the government has an obligation to provide services to people, irrespective of whether they vote or not.
“(Even) if voters don’t believe in democracy, there is nothing undemocratic by expecting government to deliver,” he said, adding that millions of voters are beneficiaries of social grants, according to the latest data.
“According to the data presented to us today, millions of voters are captures of grants. Whether they are right or wrong (in their voting choices), at least they are looking at their own interests. That is rational behavior”.
The CSDA had to field questions ranging from, “what influences political party preferences of South African voters in the run up to the 2019 elections”, if there is a shift away from party loyalty and identification in voter preferences as well as whether socio-economic rights implementation, governance and corruption matter to South African voters.
The study is based on the first of three waves of data collection that will assess voting preferences in the run up to the 2019 national elections. The results are based on a national sample of 4000 potential voters surveyed in 2017 by IPSOS on our behalf.
Team presentations included: Megan Bryer, Researcher, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg; Professor Yolanda Sadie, Professor of Politics, University of Johannesburg. Professor Steven Friedman, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg, was the special guest.
- The Research is funded by the SA Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development; Faculty of Humanities & UJ Research Committee.
- Statistical analysis: UJ Stratcon, Jaclyn de Klerk
- IPSOS, Public Affairs, Khayabus syrvey 2017