Voter interest on the increase: survey

15 April 2011

Voting interest among South Africans is on the increase, with 79% of prospective voters intending to vote in the local government elections on 18 May, according to a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council.

The survey, commissioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to help in its preparations for the 18 May poll, found that over 90 percent of South Africans were satisfied with the country’s voting process.

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) visited about 500 areas countrywide in conducting its survey. In each area, seven households were selected for face-to-face interviews conducted in the language of the respondents. Those interviewed were aged 16 and older and cut across different race and ethnic groups.

Political disinterest and disillusionment was the primary reason given by the 21% of respondents who said they did not intend to vote in the upcoming election. These respondents showed some level of mistrust of politicians while expressing disappointment at the quality of service delivery by municipalities.

Some admitted that party loyalty rather than abstention remained their key electoral response to political parties not delivering effectively on their mandate.

Researchers also found that political interest had increased slightly from 2004, while remaining relatively low at 42 percent. About 58 percent of the respondents expressed awareness of local governance structures such as ward committees, with this awareness most seen among poor citizens.

However, satisfaction with democracy had declined slightly over the past decade, coupled with lower levels of trust in core political institutions. When it came to views on municipal performance, 45 percent expressed dissatisfaction with municipal services.

Interesting was the increase in the level of trust for the SABC, with respondents expressing confidence in the public broadcaster, religious groups and the IEC. Most voters regarded the IEC highly for its “efficiency and professionalism”, with trust in the IEC increasing by 19 percent between 1999 and 2010.

An overwhelming number of South Africans were also satisfied with the registration process, 98 percent saying they found it easy and 58 percent reporting to have taken 10 minutes or less to register.

HSRC lead researcher Udesh Pillay said very few voters, about 13 percent, thought irregularities had occurred during the previous local government elections in 2006, while 86 percent said they have never personally experienced any irregularity.

“The general feeling was that the majority is satisfied with the way things are done and how the IEC conducts its business,” Pillay said.

He attributed the decline in satisfaction with democracy to increased unemployment, the recession of 2008-09, and anxieties sparked by the political transition ahead of the 2009 general elections.

Source: BuaNews