Possible political party choices in the 2024 election

Indications are that a record number of political parties will participate in next year’s National and Provincial elections. They will also for the first time be joined by independent candidates.

During the launch of the National and Provincial Elections (NPE 2024) elections programme on Tuesday, 24 October 2023, Mr. Sy Mamabolo, the Chief Electoral Officer, announced their intention to have 23,296 voting stations operational for this important event.

About 42.3 million South Africans aged 18 years old or older are currently eligible to cast their votes. However, as of Wednesday, 25 October 2023, the IEC website indicated that only 26,214,764 South Africans are registered to vote. This suggests that only around 62% of South Africans who are eligible to vote, will have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming National and Provincial elections in 2024.

This is unless an extraordinary effort is made by the IEC, political parties, other institutions, the media, and concerned individuals to boost this number and motivate South Africans to register to vote before President Cyril Ramaphosa declares the election date, which will be the indication for the voters’ roll to be closed.

Ipsos in South Africa conducts regular political polling, both during election and non-election years, with the results being consistently published. The standard question posed is, "If there were National [or Provincial] elections tomorrow, which political party would you vote for?" In our Pulse of the People™ series, where interviews are conducted face-to-face, respondents are requested to select their choice(s) on an imitation ballot paper on a computer, before handing it back to the interviewer. This approach replicates a real ballot paper and ensures the confidentiality of the vote.

Between elections, Ipsos routinely publishes the viewpoints of all South Africans eligible to vote. However, this approach is not ideal now, given the less-than-perfect registration figures. Ipsos also queries respondents about their voter registration status and filters survey results accordingly.

Nevertheless, it's important to note that self-reported registration tends to be somewhat exaggerated, with more individuals claiming to be registered than the figures verified by the IEC. As elections draw nearer, our preference shifts towards using the actual registration data from the IEC to weight and project survey results to reflect the potential voter population.

Party Choices of South Africans who are registered to vote with the IEC

These results include 15% of the electorate who have not aligned themselves with a particular political party, often indicated as "will not vote", "refused to answer", or "don't know". These responses are all valid answers to the questions asked, and delving deeper into this data can provide valuable insights for political parties, to analyse the “undecided vote”. Simply disregarding these responses and reallocating the 15% to other political parties would be comparable to disregarding people's democratic right to make their own choices.

It's important to remember that those who do not express a preference may not necessarily vote in the same way as the rest of the electorate on voting day.

However, it's reasonable to exclude individuals who express a "would not vote" opinion, even if they are registered with the IEC. This is a valid perspective, as we observed in both 2016 and 2019 a sizable contingent of registered voters who chose not to participate in the voting process on election day.

The remaining 10%, categorised as "refused to answer" or "don't know", are further examined through a series of additional questions from the study in order to ascertain their likely party preferences.

Probable party choices of South Africans registered to vote

Looking at a different analysis of these results, the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa, currently comprising six parties, looks to draw about 31% to 33% of the vote at this stage.

It's crucial to emphasise that these results DO NOT CONSTITUTE AN ELECTION PREDICTION. Election predictions can only be made in the final stages leading up to the election. Various factors, including campaign dynamics, political and economic changes, as well as the state of essential services like electricity and water provision, can influence the election outcome in the next seven to eight months. It is prudent to monitor all these developments closely before drawing any conclusions about the final election outcome.

Voter turnout will play a significant role on election day, and multiple analyses suggest that expecting a high voter turnout may not be realistic, largely due to the prevailing sentiment in the country. Conversely, a low voter turnout could work to the advantage of the ANC, possibly even pushing ANC support above the 50% mark. This scenario hinges on the possibility of a substantial decrease in voter participation in metropolitan areas and a much higher turnout of ANC voters in rural regions. Currently, the most plausible voter turnout falls within the range of 45% to 50%, with ANC support in a similar range, and both the DA and EFF showing support levels in the region of 18% to 22%.

This suggests that the possibility of a national-level coalition is conceivable, though not guaranteed. In the event of such an election outcome, the ANC would only require a party with about 4% to 6% national support as a coalition partner to establish a national government. A coalition involving just two parties could streamline negotiations and potentially enhance the coalition's effectiveness. However, it's essential to underscore that this is purely speculative, and numerous further studies will be conducted in the lead-up to the 2024 election.

Currently, it appears that the formation of coalitions in the country's three most populous provinces is a plausible scenario.

Political party choices of registered voters in Gauteng the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal

About the study

  • 3,600 face-to-face interviews were conducted by trained Ipsos interviewers in the homes and home languages of respondents.
  • Interviews were conducted from 1 June 2023 to 20 July 2023.
  • A scientific process of multi-stage stratified random selection distributed interviews in all areas of the county, including deep rural areas.
  • All results were aggregated and then analysed as described.
  • The margin of error of this study, at a 95% confidence level is plus or minus 0.65.