Afrobarometer poll shows tight presidential race

Titanic battle...Nelson Chamisa and Emmerson Mnangagwa

PAN-African research project Afrobarometer’s latest poll on the July 30 general election, released on Friday, shows a tight race between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main challenger, Nelson Chamisa.

The poll, conducted roughly a month before the general election using a sample of 2,400 people drawn from all the 10 provinces, showed 40% of the respondents indicating support for Mnangagwa, with 37% backing Chamisa.

A previous poll, conducted between April 28 and May 12, 2018, had shown Mnangagwa enjoying 42% support and an 11 percentage point lead on Chamisa.

“If the election had been held in early July 2018,
Chamisa would have secured 37% of the vote compared to 40% for Mnangagwa.”

Of the 20% respondents who did not declare their voting preferences, 15% chose not to, while 5% had not yet made up their minds.  

Only 3% signaled preference for the other candidates in the crowded presidential race, making a second round of voting unlikely.

A winning candidate needs to secure 50% plus one vote in the first round to avoid a run-off.

A provincial breakdown shows the two candidates leading in five provinces each. Mnangagwa dominates in the three Mashonaland provinces as well as Masvingo and Midlands. Chamisa enjoys support in the two Matabeleland provinces, Manicaland, Harare and Bulawayo.

The poll shows ZANU-PF with a five percentage point gap in the parliamentary race, 41% against the MDC Alliance’s 35%. The provincial split follows the same fault-line as the presidential race, except in Matabeleland South, where ZANU-PF edges the MDC Alliance, giving the ruling party a majority in six of the ten provinces.

Afrobarometer projects a ZANU-PF parliamentary majority.

Source: Afrobarometer/MPOI

Here are some highlights from the Afrobarometer survey:

  • 97% of registered voters polled said they were “probably” or “definitely” going to vote.
  • Fears of free expression and electoral violence declined slightly, but remained high, at 76% and 43%, respectively.
  • More people reported attending ruling-party election rallies than opposition-party rallies, especially in rural areas.
  • More people, especially in urban areas, thought Chamisa would perform better at job creation.
  • Depending on how undeclared voters (20%) ultimately decide to vote, either party had a chance to win the presidential election on the first round.
  • Zimbabweans continue to worry that the election would not end well: More than four in 10 expressed concerns that incorrect election results would be announced, that the armed forces would not respect the election result, and that post-election violence would occur.
  • Reflecting these concerns, 43% of respondents – regardless of whether they planned to vote or which candidate they preferred to vote for – still considered the ZANU-PF the more likely winner in the race for the presidency, against 34% who expect an opposition win.
“Wisdom of the crowd” – 43% of respondents expect ZANU-PF to win anyway, regardless of their own voting preference

This month’s election is the first since 2000, in which dogged gladiators Robert Mugabe – ousted in a coup last November – and Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February, will not lead their parties into battle.