South Africa poll: ANC falls under 50%, DA benefits from low turnout

By Crystal Orderson, in Cape Town
Posted on Thursday, 2 May 2019 17:18

A biker rides past during the launch of the election manifesto of the African National Congress in Durban, South Africa, January 12, 2019.

There is less than a week before 26.7m registered voters make their choice in a very crowded and competitive space: there are 48 parties to choose from.

And there have been nearly as many polls, with a slew recently all jostling to give their own take on the pulse of the nation.

The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) ‘Criterion Report‘, released on 30 April, lands this bombshell: The ANC may fall under 50% for this first time since the new democratic post-Apartheid era.

“The ANC currently stands at 49.5% nationally, down 5.2 percentage points from February (54.7%)”

This naturally had columnists barking.

Peter Bruce at Business Day is worried about the coalitions that the ANC would have to enter into to rule.

  • “What price would the EFF extract? A harder stance on the expropriation of land without compensation? Obviously. Nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank? Tomorrow”

But while it has certainly raised the political temperature, the IRR was at pains to point out in its poll, “The last weeks of an election campaign are a critical period during which, historically, the bigger parties – particularly the ANC and DA – tend to consolidate their vote upwards”

In addition, two other polls disagree with the IRR range by an order of magnitude.

Head of policy at the IRR Gareth van Onselen told reporters:

  • Things were very fluid particularly for the ANC and EFF
  • The DA is stable for now
  • Importantly, 15% of respondents said they did not know who they would vote for, so voter turnout is key, especially for the DA’s success, as the party becomes far more competitive on a low voter turnout

Battleground Provinces:


Gauteng is the province with the highest number of voters in the country. And in the country’s economic heartland the ANC’s support is on the decrease. IRR polls put the ANC on 42.8% on the provincial ballot: “on a 70.4% turnout scenario, support for the party decreases to 39%. On a 67.7% turnout scenario, it also decreases to 39%”

  • The DA’s support is 31.9% of polled voters, On a 70.4% turnout scenario, support for the party increases to 39% but that also increases to 40% on a 67.7% turnout scenario.
  • The EFF stands on 13%, which, combined with support for the DA, could see the province led by a DA-EFF alliance.

Western Cape

The Western Cape has always been the jewel in the crown for the opposition DA. It is the one province that they have won but as the election goes even here their majority is under threat.

  • DA’s support is 44.6%, down 5.5 percentage points from February.
  • ANC currently stands on 27.8% on the provincial ballot, down 6.1 percentage points from February.
  • Smaller parties seem to make inroads like the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) which currently stands on 7.0% on the provincial ballot, up 3.5 percentage points from February (3.5%)
    The EFF currently stands on 6.8% on the provincial ballot, up 5.8 percentage points from February (1.0%).
    IRR poll notes that these smaller parties showed significant growth in the Western Cape.

Political analyst Asanda Saule Ngoasheng tells The Africa Report that the decrease of support for the ANC and the DA in the Western Cape is not surprising:

  • People are less interested in the ANC – the party is dealing with the fall out of corruption and what we have heard from the Zondo Commission; then there is also the Jacob Zuma years. People have lost faith in the big parties like the ANC and DA.
  • The removal of ANC in Johannesburg and Tshwane shows that the ANC ‘s power base can be dismantled and people are open to other parties
  • There is a lot more distrust and the DA and ANC are suffering from incumbency syndrome.

Bottom line: Having shaken up the established view once, IRR will get a second bite of the cherry, with a second poll to be published on 6 May; two days before the 8 May election.

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