University of Johannesburg: Survey shows that nearly two-thirds of adults support postponing the 2021 local government elections

As things currently stand, the country is due to have local government elections on 27 October 2021. However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has raised questions about the feasibility of conducting free and fair elections amidst ongoing restrictions on gatherings, which may hamper voter registration and party political campaigning. Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is currently leading a process to evaluate the potential impact of Covid-19 on the conditions for holding free and fair elections on 27 October 2021.

Findings from the University of Johannesburg (UJ)/Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Covid-19 democracy survey show that nearly two-thirds (61%) of the public support postponing the 2021 local government elections. Of those who support postponement, just over half (52%) strongly support postponement, demonstrating that the public seem to have clear views on the issue of electoral postponement.

Support for postponement is largely consistent across various socio-demographic variables, including gender, age, education, employment, and subjective poverty status. This demonstrates that there is a high degree of public consensus on this issue.

Views on postponement differ somewhat by race, although all population groups mostly support postponement. Indian and Asian adults most strongly favour postponement (82%), while White adults have the lowest relative level of support for postponement (52%). While this is lower than other population groups, it demonstrates that just over half of White adults want to opt for postponement.

There was negligible difference in preferences among residents or urban and rural areas. In urban areas, 62% support postponement, compared to 61% in rural areas. Similarly, although there are discernable differences amongst the different provinces in support for postponement, it is nonetheless the primary response in all provinces.

Regardless of political party support, most prefer postponement. ANC supporters are most likely to favour postponement (67%), but support for postponement amongst EFF and DA supporters is similarly high, 63% and 61% respectively. Supporters of other political parties approve of postponement slightly less (53%), but this group is also more likely to be neutral or unsure than supporters of the three main political parties.

Overall, considering all socio-demographic, spatial, and attitudinal measures jointly, we find that personal characteristics have virtually no statistically significant effect on electoral postponement. This reinforces the idea of a broad societal consensus on the matter

Instead, the basis of varying strength of support for postponement appears to be influenced more by attitudes relating to political trust and performance, Covid-19 risk perceptions, and beliefs about acting in the collective interest of the health of all South Africans during this time of national crisis. While these may modify support for postponement, the broad consensus is still one that favours postponement.

These latest findings come from round 4 of the UJ/HSRC Covid-19 democracy survey, which launched on 25 June 2021. The survey has been fully completed by 4,728 participants. Findings have been weighted to match Statistics South Africa data on race, education and age, and can be regarded as broadly representative of the population at large

The survey was conducted through an online survey using the popular Moya Messenger app, which has 5 million monthly users. Participants are able to respond to the survey at no data costs enabled by Datafree, the parent company of Moya.

The survey was made possible by funding from the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) and by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

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