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Trends in Voting in South Africa 2003-2014

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionNhlapo, Mosidi, Barbara A. Anderson, and Marie Wentzel. 2017. "Trends in Voting in South Africa 2003-2014." PSC Research Report No. 17-881. 4 2017.

This paper analyzes voting preferences of South Africans based on data from the South African Social Attitudes Surveys (SASAS) 2003-2014. The focus is on differences by race and age. In national election years, respondents were asked whether they voted and what party they voted for. In every year respondents were asked whether they would vote and what party they would vote for if the election were held tomorrow. This paper is based on vote intentions.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has dominated elections, attracting the support of almost all Africans, while non-Africans have increasingly supported the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). There has been much speculation about when African allegiance to the ANC might weaken. There also has been speculation that the allegiance of better educated Africans to the ANC would weaken before that of Africans with lower educational attainment. Another aspect of possible change in voting preference and behavior relates to age. As more people who spent little of their lives under apartheid reached voting age, it was thought that the allegiance of young Africans to the ANC might be weaker than of older Africans. Also, sometimes young people view issues differently than older people. Africans were more likely to intend to vote than non-Africans, but over time race mattered less in whether a person intended to vote.

It seems that over time non-Africans felt they had more of a stake in the system and thought that voting was worthwhile. Young non-Africans are significantly more likely to support the ANC than older non-Africans, and young Africans are significantly more likely to support the DA than older Africans. Thus young voters are less tied than older voters to the party favored by most members of their racial group. Over the 2003-2014 period young and older Africans and non-Africans increased their support of the DA, and education was positively related to DA support for every group. In 2013, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a revolutionary socialist party, broke off from the ANC. In the 2014 national election, the EFF won 6% of the vote. In the 2013 SASAS, 9% of young voting-age Africans and 6% of older Africans supported the EFF. Among both young and older Africans, education was positively related to supporting the EFF. However, African support for the ANC remained very high.

The lessening of the importance of race for intention to vote, as is some convergence in voting preferences of young voters, are positive developments. However, this convergence in party choice by race is limited. In 2014, 86% of older Africans and 83% of young Africans who intended to vote supported the ANC, while 81% of both young and older non-Africans who intended to vote supported the DA.

Country of focus: South Africa.

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