How much money you have in your pocket determines how likely you are to vote while more than half of citizens believe people receive cash or gifts for their vote.

 Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.

A survey revealed that almost half of South Africans feel they are worse off than five years ago with the majority of citizens agreeing that corruption, unemployment and the cost of living has increased. This and other interesting data were revealed at an Electoral Commission (IEC) research survey seminar in Sandton on September 21.

Mountains of information were obtained through surveys from three groups, Surveys Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Afrobarometer and Citizen Survey. The HSRC’s surveys on voter participation and election satisfaction the focus point of the seminar.

Here are some of the interesting results:

Satisfaction levels drastically decreased
  • Since 2003 satisfaction with social grants decreased from 70% to 60%.
  • Satisfaction with electricity decreased from 66% to 38%.
  • Satisfaction with water and sanitation decreased from 60% to 40%.
  • Satisfaction with job creation hovered around 10% from 2003 to 2021.
Trust in government and politicians waning
  • Institutional trust in national government dropped from around 48% in 1998 to 28% in 2021.
  • Trust in parliament dropped from about 58% to 25%.
  • Trust in local government dropped from about 38% to 21%.
  • Trust in political parties dropped from 30% to 19%.
Cathy Mohlahlana. Jan Hofmeyr of Afrobarometer and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and Dr Ben Roberts of the council discuss the state of democracy in South Africa at the seminar. Photo: Nicholas Zaal.
Electoral commission and courts still earn highest trust:

Trust in the electoral commission is still the second highest after trust in courts, but it has also dropped from 56% in 2003 to 43% in 2021. Experts explained this was linked to overall views on democracy, which had a pull-down effect on trust in institutions.

How people feel about voting
  • Only 59% of South Africans are interested in government elections compared to 76% in 2005.
  • The sense of duty people feel to vote has decreased from 86% in 2004 to 62% in 2021.
  • More people agree with the statements ‘whether I vote or not makes no difference’ and ‘voting is meaningless because no politician can be trusted’.
  • More people agree with the view ‘after being elected all parties are the same, so voting is pointless’. (Increase from 31% in 2003 to 43% in 2021.)
  • Administration, political intimidation and the high crime rate were some of the barriers identified that hinder voter registration.
  • While 55% of people felt that online voter registration would make the process easier, 44% still feel online registration will introduce more electoral fraud.
  • Your financial well-being impacts your decision to vote: More people (63%) from the ‘non-poor’ group intend to vote than the poor (53%) and unemployed (56%).
  • The younger you are the less tolerant you are to the poor performance of political parties. About 48% of older people (aged 55+) will give their party another chance compared to 35% of people aged 18–24, 38% of people aged 25–34 and 39% of people aged 35–54.
  • About 53% of people believe people receive cash, gifts or services for their vote.
  • 45% of people believe TV news favours the ruling party.
  • 46% of people think rich people buy votes.
The voting process:
  • About 77% of people queued for less than 15 minutes, 15% queued for 16-30 minutes, 5% queued for 31–60 minutes, 2% waited one to two hours while 1% waited more than two hours.
  • A total of 64% of voters found voting very easy and 32% found it easy inside the station.
  • About 80% of voters found electoral officers friendly, helpful, honest, patient, interested in their jobs and professional.
  • Political coercion has increased since 2009 to over a 10th of voters. But this is mostly by family and friends before one reaches the voting station.
  • Nearly all voters (97%) were satisfied with the secrecy of their vote, and 92% felt the elections are free and fair, though the latter has declined from 95% in 2009.

The presentation can be found on the IEC website.

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