Elections 2019: 5 things we’ve learnt about South African voters


    The latest data released by SA Citizen Surveys (SACS) shows an alarming percentage of youth that won’t vote at this year’s elections. Here are five insights we have learnt from the recent survey.

    The 2019 elections are around the corner but despite President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasising the importance of these upcoming elections, there are still a large number of South Africans who have not registered to vote and therefore cannot vote in May. The SA citizen survey (SACS) is a monthly tracking study that has been designed to stay in touch with current events in South Africa and the day-to-day reality experienced by citizens. This month they have focused on data collated from face-to-face interviews around the public perception of the 2019 elections. Here are some of their findings so far:

    1. At least 11.2 million South Africans will not vote in May 2019

    Of the 11.2 million unregistered voters, the majority are youth between 19 and 34 years of age. “When looking at those unregistered voters, accounting for 11.2 million South Africans, in more detail, 40% or 4.5 million of them say they do not intend to register to vote. Worryingly, a significant proportion of these people are young South Africans, with about one-third aged between 18 and 24 years, and one-third aged between 25 and 34 years,” said SACS.


    2. Lower income groups and youth are increasingly becoming apathetic towards SA politics

    Apathy is on the rise when it comes to the elections especially amongst lower income groups and youth groups. The study showed that the highest proportion of 4.5 million is from the lower income groups [63%] with 48% residing in the major metropolitan areas. In Gauteng, 30% of people did not intend to register citing voting challenges such as providing proof of address, getting time off work, or getting to the registration venue.


    3. Ready voters stand at 39% or 14.5 million adults

    SACS developed a voter-readiness model which puts voters into four categories: ready voters, likely voters, challenged voters and unmotivated potential voters. Of those categories, the voters who are motivated to vote, registered, and can overcome voting day challenges make up 39% or 14.5 million adults. Likely voters make up 9% or 3.2 million adults while challenged voters sit at 24% or 9 million adults. In total, challenged voters regardless of registration status make up 28% or 10.5 million adults.


    4. Trust in the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has grown over the last quarter

    The silver lining in the survey was that trust in the IEC has grown over the last quarter from an all-time low of 48% between July and September 2018 to 59% between October and December 2018. Reza Omar, director of research and strategy at SACS said this could be attributed to the fact that SA is moving into election season and there is a greater awareness of the IEC’s role.


    5. There are more registered voters than the previous election

    The IEC reported that there were just over 26 million registered voters, an increase from the 25.4 million registered voters in the 2014 elections. Of those registered voters in 2014, only 18.6 million South Africans cast their ballots. Only time will tell how many South Africans vote this year and how new voters will affect the turn-out.