Elections 2016: Poll of Polls

Currently a third (33%) of registered voters agree (either "strongly agree" or "agree") with the statement "I will seriously consider not voting in the 2016 municipal elections because I am unhappy with service delivery". In addition, less than half (44%) says "Overall, I trust government to deliver effective services to the public". These are two of the most interesting findings of the pre-election Pulse of the People™ study conducted by Ipsos in June and July this year.

Currently a third (33%) of registered voters agree (either "strongly agree" or "agree") with the statement "I will seriously consider not voting in the 2016 municipal elections because I am unhappy with service delivery".

In addition, less than half (44%) says "Overall, I trust government to deliver effective services to the public". These are two of the most interesting findings of the pre-election Pulse of the People™ study conducted by Ipsos in June and July this year.

With service delivery in sharp focus, the most important Local Government Elections in South Africa's history will take place on Wednesday 3 August 2016 and, in spite of the electorate's unhappiness about service delivery, it is unlikely that the relatively low turnout figure of 57,7% of May 2011 will be repeated. Election frenzy is at fever pitch and political parties are making their final appeals to voters to come out and cast their votes.

In these circumstances it is difficult to imagine that a third of registered voters are not interested in politics!  In fact, only around a quarter (26%) of the 26,333,353 South Africans who are registered to vote admit that they are indeed "very interested" in politics. 


Figure 1: Are you interested in politics and elections?


Taking this into account, it should not be surprising that about 10 million South Africans, eligible to vote, are not registered at all.  About political allegiance, 44% agree with the statement "There is no political party that represents my views."


Is the country going in the right direction?


An important issue driving this feeling of disassociation is the opinion that the country is currently moving in the wrong direction.  In fact, since November 2009 it is clear that increasing proportions of adult South Africans of all backgrounds feel that the country is moving in the wrong direction.



Figure 2: Is the country is going in the right direction or the wrong direction – trends over time


This feeling is echoed by those who are registered to vote on Wednesday - half of them are of the opinion that we are heading the wrong way:




Figure 3: Is the country is going in the right direction or the wrong direction – 2016 registered voters


Opinions about political leadership


Currently, just more than half (54%) of registered voters agreed with the statement "The government only thinks about the interests of members of the ANC".  Against this background it is important to have a look at opinions about politicians.


Each leader is evaluated on a scale from 0 to 10, where "0" means that the respondent is totally against the person as a political leader and "10" means he/she is totally in favour of this leader.  The table below summarises the views of registered voters about the leaders of the three strongest political parties in the country.  (The scores for deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa are added, due to the important role he plays in the ANC campaign.)


How do you evaluate … AS A POLITICAL LEADER? Average out of 10
Jacob Zuma 4.9
Mmusi Maimane 4.5
Julius Malema 3.1
Cyril Ramaphosa 5.7


Views on the leading political parties

Some probing on opinions on the actions of political parties were included in the latest Pulse of the People™ study.  The origin of these statements are views expressed in the media or in group discussions.

The table below summarises the views of registered voters on these issues.


Please indicate if you strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree with each of these statements...*

Strongly agree / Agree


Disagree / Strongly disagree


The ANC has lost its "moral compass" 57 19
I have faith that the ANC will live up to their election promises 45 33
The DA talks a lot, but does very little for people like me 52 24
The EFF is having a negative effect on Parliament 65 17
The EFF's policies are too radical 61 16

*Those that mentioned that they "neither agree nor disagree" or said that they "don't know" are excluded from this table.


Modelling of voter turnout scenarios and possible party support

The modelling of possible voter turnout and possible votes is a complicated analytical process.

If previous elections are anything to go by, it is unrealistic to expect that ALL registered voters will turn out to vote on election day.  This is a major factor as the actual voter turnout can have a profound influence on the number of votes for each political party.  To try and get a workable answer to the question of possible turnout, we use the results to two survey questions, focusing on the desire to vote and on the likelihood to vote.  Based on the answers to these two questions an algorithm is developed to produce a low, medium and high voter turnout scenario.

According to this exercise, a low voter turnout scenario will result if about 10.2 million registered voters turning out to vote (they are highly likely to vote and definitely want to vote); a medium voter turnout scenario will result in about 17.5 million voters turning out to vote (they include the group above as well as those who felt slightly more ambivalent about wanting to vote and likelihood to vote); a high voter turnout  scenario will result in about 21.9 million voters turning up to vote on Wednesday (this groups includes the previous two groups as well as those who are more unsure of whether they will turn out to vote or do not really want to vote, or are unsure).


Likewise, a look at what a possible outcome of the elections can be, is not as simple as asking respondents which party they are going to vote for.  This year a fairly large proportion of South Africans (between 10% and 20% - depending on the timing of the surveys and the geographical area concerned) have indicated that they either did not know where they are going to draw their crosses or that they refused to tell the interviewer about their (possible) choice.

In addition, the process of a Local Government Election is far more complicated than that of National and Provincial elections - which are determined by the proportional number of votes drawn by each party.  The system used for Local Government Elections combine the proportion of votes won AND the winners ("candidate first past the post") in each ward.  The figures regarding possible party choice (overleaf) are a combination of results from different questions and studies:

  • The political choices determined by a simulated "secret ballot"
  • Direct questions about party choice
  • The party the respondent will never vote for
  • Views on political parties, ranging from "I reject this organisation completely and on principle" to "I will definitely vote for this organisation if there were an election tomorrow"
  • Views on political leaders and political parties
  • Other opinions expressed on political parties in the course of the survey.


Summary of party support on the medium voter turnout scenario:


PARTY Possible % Margin of error
ANC 54 1.0% - 2.3%
DA 26 1.8% - 4.1%
EFF 8 3.1% - 7.0%
ACDP 1*  
COPE 1*  
FF+ 1*  
IFP 2  
UDM 1  

*These parties register below 1%, but above 0.5%


As can be seen above, it was impossible to determine the possible voting choice of ALL registered voters in the medium voter turnout scenario.

It is very important to keep in mind that survey research is not an exact science and that all results have to be evaluated within the margin of error, determined by sample size, response rate and sampling methodology used.  In addition, survey research is only considered a true reflection of the situation on the ground at the time of the survey.  This also has to be kept in mind when evaluating results (for more information, see the Technical Detail paragraph.)


With this in mind, let's look at the possible outcomes in the most contested metropolitan areas:


PARTY City of Johannesburg possible % City of Tshwane possible % Nelson Mandela Bay Metro possible %
Margin of error* 1.3% - 5.2% 1.6% - 5.6% 2.1% - 8.3%
ANC 46 47 37
DA 41 43 44
EFF 8 9 6

*The margin of error given here is for the Metro area as a whole, for an individual political party this will be different.


It is clear that the three most contested metro's in the country are still (a few days before the election) making the headlines. The survey results in the City of Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane are indicating that the possible result in these cities are definitely too close to call.  However, it seems as if the DA is doing very well and is ahead in the race to win the control in Nelson Mandela Bay.


As far as the smaller parties are concerned, the IFP will be the "biggest of the small parties" in the City of Johannesburg and the ACDP and FF+ will deliver their best metropolitan performance in the City of Tshwane.  The UDM will be the fourth biggest party in Nelson Mandela Bay.


Looking at the survey results from Pulse of the People™ in the other metropolitan areas in the country its clear that the ANC will take strong victories in Buffalo City and in Mangaung.


The race in Ekurhuleni is much closer and it makes this metro also too close to call, although the ANC seems to be in the lead.


The ANC should also win in eThekwini however, in this area the unhappiness with some of the chosen candidates for ward councillor has made the survey results difficult to interpret clearly.


The DA will take an outright victory in the City of Cape Town and also in the Western Cape (if one looks at provincial results). 


In all the other provinces the ANC will be on top, although the EFF will be delivering a strong performance in Limpopo – the party could win about a quarter of the votes in this province.


However, in terms of the survey results it seems evident that a large number of local councils will be in need of coalition forming after this election.  Although a few councils are currently controlled by coalitions, this will be, or the most part, a new experience for South Africans.


The wishes of voters


Regardless of the outcome of the Local Government Elections South Africans who are registered to vote want their local councils to focus on a few very key issues during the five-year term in office:


Most important issues to focus on:

All issues mentioned


Most important issue



Unemployment 87 40
Crime 57 9
Corruption 55 13
Development of infrastructure 47 12
Poverty 47 7
Education 38 3
Health (excl. HIV and AIDS) 27 1
Land reform 24 1
HIV and AIDS 22 1
Brain drain 15 1
Other issues A large number of other issues were mentioned by small proportions 12

 Issues mentioned by 1% or more of registered voters are shown



Findings are from two series of studies:  the series of pre-election polls conducted for the eNCA and the findings of Pulse of the People™ studies.

eNCA studies:

This project has been undertaken in the 8 weeks before the Local Government Elections in 2016.  A panel of about 3,000 voters were recruited using RDD (Random Digit Dialling), representative of eligible voters in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.  Each week at least 1500 of them were phoned back for a 5-minute interview.  All interviews were conducted using CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) with a representative sample of residents of the three metropolitan areas who have access to a mobile phone.

Interviews were conducted on the Monday and Tuesday of each week, data processing happened on the Wednesday and results were published on the Thursday.  The purpose of these studies was to measure the "political climate" in the country during the pre-election period, measure the influence of campaigning and things that happened during this period (like the unrest and violence in Tshwane) and contribute to the political discourse in the country.

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