15/03/2017 13:26 SAST | Updated 15/03/2017 19:51 SAST

Social Grants And Pensions Influenced A Quarter Of People's Votes In 2016, Says Think-Tank Survey

1 in 10 South Africans believed foreign powers were in charge of South Africa in the last election.

Election officials scan voters identity documents at a voting station during the local government elections in Umlazi, Durban, on August 3, 2016.
Rogan Ward / Reuters
Election officials scan voters identity documents at a voting station during the local government elections in Umlazi, Durban, on August 3, 2016.

Social grants played a major role in the voting decisions of an estimated 19,8 percent of voters in last year's local government elections, a new survey has found.

A 2016 voter sentiment survey done by think-tank Good Governance Africa (GGA) and released on Wednesday found that 60 percent of the 2,291 respondents across South Africa voted for the same party they had always supported, 29 percent abstained and 7,1 percent voted for a different party.

Almost a third of voters (32,7 percent) said loyalty played a major role while 17.6 percent of voters said they had "given up hope". Five percent of voters said fear and intimidation influenced their vote, and 4,5 percent said they voted without having access to adequate information.

The ANC's overall support in last year's elections dropped plummeted below the usual 60 percent mark to 54 percent, something which the party admitted gave it a fright.

The survey found that respondents who were not "economically active" were most likely to be happy with both local and national government. Most of these respondents are assumed to be grant recipients.

Alain Tschudin, executive director of GGA said this did not mean those respondents who were in the social grant bracket were happy. "There seems to be a tension between people acknowledging they need these grants to stay alive, versus being unhappy with their plight. When you have five portaloos servicing a few thousand people and they haven't been cleaned in three weeks, you might be happy to say I'm happy to get my grant, but ...," he said.

Just more than a third of respondents said they would vote for another party if they found one that was a viable alternative to the one for which they have been voting.

Altogether 34,5 percent of the respondents said "finding an alternative party that better meets their needs" would drive them to change their voting behaviour.

Should the country reach a tipping point where they "lost hope", 28,3 percent of respondents said they would change their vote, while 26,5 percent said "gaining more information on the government's performance" would change their behaviour, and 22 percent said more information about their rights.

Responding to the question that why, despite a survey finding most people blamed incompetent and corrupt government officials for the poor state of the economy, people still voted for the governing party, 43,6 percent said it was because of loyalty, while 32 percent said voters genuinely believed in the chosen party's capacity to govern.

Twenty-four percent said they voted for the governing party due to the social grants, while 11 percent believed intimidation and fear played a role.

Respondents were apparently able to list more than one reason for supporting the ruling party.

Almost half of all respondents (48 percent) said they believed the president governed the country, while only 15 percent believed "the people" were in charge. Some 10,4 percent stated that foreign powers were in charge, and 20,4 percent said Parliament.

The survey also gave a breakdown of voting patterns in various provinces, with the North West being the province where most people did not vote, while KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape being the provinces where most people voted.