May 2024

Explaining Volatility in The Final Stages of The Foundation's Tracking Polls

This report examines the volatility in the final week of the Foundation's South African election tracking polls. Towards the final days of a tracking poll it should be possible to see the trendlines flatten out as political opinion crystallizes immediately before an election. However, towards the late stages of this tracking poll that is not happening. The reason for this is that an unprecedented degree of voter uncertainty about which party to support, as the ANC fractures, is causing a small share of voters to move back and forth between the ANC, EFF, MK and also the DA. Two significant events occurred over the past 10 days which appear to have particularly animated this trend. The first was the signing of the draft NHI legislation into law on 15 May. The ANC greatly miscalculated here in assuming that the signing would be read as a statement of social solidarity. However, given that several million middle and aspirant middle-class people make use of private medical care both via insurance products they purchase as well as via out-of-pocket expenditure, the announcement was broadly interpreted as an attack on middle and aspirant middle-class standards of living. This is a highly registered constituency and one in which the ANC was already particularly vulnerable to shedding support. In addition, there is scant evidence that the promise of a nationalised public healthcare service animates voting constituencies in lower socio-economic strata. The second event was the constitutional court ruling against former President Jacob Zuma on 20 May. The strength of Mr Zuma's MK party arises chiefly from the perception of his persecution. Mr Zuma has positioned himself as a fallen hero who is being persecuted by a distant and aloof ANC that has long neglected and even forgotten about core bands of its erstwhile supporters. The finding of the court that he was unfit to stand for parliament provided new impetus for this perception. The combination of these two events drove ANC support down, bucking the trend of a clear upward drift in ANC support of the previous 3 weeks, as both MK and the DA saw their support levels lift.

National Election Track from 7 May

60% turnout modeled

Individual Party Support All Turnout Models from 7 May

ANC support

Individual Party Support All Turnout Models from 7 May

DA support

Individual Party Support All Turnout Models from 7 May

MK Support