President Zuma's approval levels drops to its pre-election level
The drop to 43% in the President's approval level in metropolitan areas in February 2010 represents a return to levels seen before the 2009 election. From the election to the end of 2009, his levels approval levels were in the 50s, ending the year on a high of 58%.
By comparison, former President Mbeki's approval ratings were in the mid to low 30s from 1999 to 2002, only beginning to rise in 2003 before hitting a high of 66% in both 2004 and 2005. He ended his term on a rating of 34%.
This represents a firm negative trend
The latest study shows that the proportion of fence-sitters has dropped to 17% - still quite high, but a decline from the low 30s and high 20s seen in 2009. This means that this drop in approval is a real swing from positive to negative and not a function of fence-sitters making up their minds as in November 2009. This also means that the net sentiment (approve minus disapprove) is down dramatically since 2009.
This is against a background of the various issues that have surrounded his personal life - the multiple wives and the revelations of his love child - and the continuing stalemate in Zimbabwe and growing service delivery protests. Indeed, it is important to note that the interviewing for this study was conducted in the week of the revelations of his love child and his subsequent apology to the nation.
Who is more or less positive?
Unfortunately, political views in South Africa tend to have a strong correlation with race. This is best illustrated in the following table:
- For blacks, after a strong rise in approval levels from the elections onwards, they are now at the poorest since November 2008.
- For whites, there was a remarkable positive shift beginning over the election period and continuing into September - but sentiment declined in November. However, sentiment has now moved to the same levels seen over the election period.
- For coloureds, initially sentiment moved from the negative into a “don't know” area - but this has now reverted back to a negative stance.
- For Indians/Asians, the score is at its most negative.
Differences by area
There are usually strong regional differences in such ratings. These are outlined below (figures in brackets represent November 2009 - there are universal declines):
- Gauteng - 47% (down from 64%)
- Johannesburg and environs - 50% (64%)
- Johannesburg excluding Soweto - 48% (61%)
- Soweto - 50% (70%)
- East Rand - 54% (67%) (highest)
- West Rand - 47% (61%)
- Vaal Triangle and South Rand - 49% (60%)
- Pretoria - 35% (61%)
- Cape Town - 23% (35%) (lowest)
- Durban - 49% (61%)
- Eastern Cape - 39% (53%)
- Port Elizabeth - 36% (44%)
- East London - 47% (71%)
- Bloemfontein 48% (83%)
Other notable differences
Partly in line also with race, younger people are more positive about the President (45% of those under 34 years approve of the way the President is doing his job (down from 63% in November)), this dropping to 32% (down from 44%) for those aged 50 years and more.
Our take out
President Zuma's approval levels, as measured in the week of February when all the revelations about his personal life emerged, as well as his third wedding, are at their lowest since he took office and stand at pre-election levels. This decline is across the board, in all metro demographics. However, at 58%, the black metro population shows the highest approval levels (down from the 75% of June 2009, though).
All the studies were conducted amongst 2 000 adults (1260 blacks, 385 whites, 240 coloureds and 115 Indians/Asians) in the seven major metropolitan areas: it has a margin of error of under 2.5% for the results found for the total sample. The studies were conducted by TNS Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd as part of their ongoing research into current social and political issues and were funded by TNS Research Surveys. For more details, please contact Neil Higgs on 011-778-7500 or 082-376-6312. www.tnsresearchsurveys.co.za
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