Voter registration low amongst the youth

The IEC’s focus on motivating young people in South Africa to register to vote in May this year Is very necessary, as only six in every ten (61%) between the ages of 18 and 24 are already registered to vote. This will be the first opportunity for many of this age group to have a direct influence on the democracy and administration of their country and the low registration is concerning.

This group of currently registered young people form only 17% of all registered voters in the country, whereas they make up a comparatively much larger proportion of the population. These are some of the findings of the latest Ipsos 6-monthly “Pulse of the People™” study, conducted at the end of 2018. 

The future

South Africa demonstrates significant policy uncertainty about important issues and our economy continues to not show growth; and these are likely some of the factors that lead to South African discontent with the direction the country is heading in.

Only about three in ten (29%) South African adults (15 years and older) believe that the country is going in the right direction. Young South Africans of voting age share this opinion with less than a third (31%) of 18-24 year olds believe the country is going in the right direction.

What about the overall direction the country is heading in?


All South Africans 15+


18-24 year olds


Going in the right direction



Going in the wrong direction



Don’t know/Undecided




The traditional association of youth and optimism sadly does not apply in this scenario: currently just over half (53%) of 18-24 year olds feel optimistic about 2019, while the corresponding figure for the general population is marginally higher at 55%.

Party Support amongst the youth

Although just over a third (35%) of 18-24 year olds[1] who are already registered to vote said that there was no political party that represented their views[2], many of them did indicate which party they would choose if a national election were held the next day[3]:

Political parties of choice of 18-24 year olds :











Other parties*




Will not vote


Refuse to answer


Don’t know


*This includes the other political parties chosen or mentioned by respondents.


The majority chose the ANC as their party of choice, followed by the EFF and the DA[4].

Trust in political parties

The opinions above are closely associated with trust in different political parties.  Respondents were asked to indicate whether they are “Extremely likely to trust” or “Very likely to trust” a party, versus an opinion that they are inclined “neither to trust nor distrust” the party, “Not very likely to trust” or “Not at all to trust” the party.  By subtracting the proportion of negative answers from the total of positive answers, we can establish the “trust index” for each party amongst the youth age group. 

Nov. 2018

ANC Trust index

EFF Trust index

DA Trust index

Only 18-24 year old registerd voters




All South African registered voters





The table above shows that the 18-24 year olds in the country are more positive about the ANC and the EFF (although the index for the EFF is still in negative figures), while they are more negative about the DA than the overall group of South African voters.


Technical Detail


Fieldwork for this study was conducted from 23rd October 2018 to the 4th December 2018.  A total of 3,571 South Africans, 15 years and older, were interviewed. They were randomly selected and interviewed face-to-face in their homes and home languages. Interviews were conducted all over the country, from metropolitan areas to deep rural areas. This methodology ensured that the results are representative of the views of the universe and that findings can be weighted and projected to the universe – i.e. South Africans 15 years and older.


Trained quantitative fieldworkers from all population groups were responsible for the interviewing and CAPI (Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing) was used. All results were collated and analysed in an aggregate format to protect the identity and confidentiality of respondents.


In fieldwork documentation of the respondents are checked.  Using a ballot paper like that used in an election, respondents had to “vote for” their choice of political party. The question specified that they need to consider their choice as if the election were happening the next day. 


All sample surveys are subject to a margin of error, determined by sample size, sampling methodology and response rate. The sample error for this total sample at a 95% confidence level is a maximum of 1.65%.


In conclusion, Ipsos welcomes any discussion about its record as a political pollster in South Africa, and any other jurisdiction where we do polls. Our record in South Africa as an accurate predictor of political outcomes and as a source of strategically important information based on our polling is very strong. 



[1] This was 37% in 2016 just before the Local Government Elections.

[2] 39% of all registered voters in the country shares this opinion.

[3] Ipsos asks a randomly selected sample of registered voters which party they would vote for in a national election if the election were to happen the next day. Respondents are given the opportunity to fill in their own choices on an electronic voting paper, imitating a secret vote.


[4] Support for these two parties is the other way round in the total registered voting public.

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