How the parties balance at mid-2000

RW Johnson analyses the latest opinion poll data.
THE LATEST MarkData opinion survey, which was carried out between June 15 and July 31, 2000 affords us the first picture of political preference at the moment when the Democratic Alliance was formed. A representative national sample of 2,239 voters was interviewed.
Despite the fact that South Africa has a perfectly proportional electoral system, which should protect the existence of minor parties, it is clear from Table 1 that the Opposition has begun to concentrate into a single grouping. Together the NNP, DP and DA account for 20.1 per cent of the vote, while there has been virtually no change in ANC support vote since 1999.

  Table 1: Party preference, by province

   ANC  NNP DP DA IFP FF  Other  D/K*
 WCape 49.2  19.8  19.2  9.6  1.0  0.5  0.5  25.6 
NCape  90.2     -   9.8     -    - -     -  12.8
 ECape  76.5   1.6   7.0   2.2    -    -  12.7   4.1
 Free St  60.9  15.0  15.8    -   1.5   1.5   5.3  12.5
 KZN  53.9   5.6   9.8    -  27.4   1.1   2.2  20.4
 Mpml  84.3   3.1  10.2    -   1.6    -   0.8  14.2
 NProv  91.6   2.3  4.2    -   1.4    -   0.5   8.5
 Gauteng  62.8   2.6  22.3  6.3   2.6   0.5   2.9  18.0
 NWest  84.4   1.3   3.9  1.3   0.6    -   8.5  17.2
 National  69.4   5.4  12.1   2.6   6.0   0.5  4.0  18.5

   *D/K includes respondents saying that they don't know, would not vote or
   who refused to divulge their choice

All other parties are now very small - the PAC's support is almost too small to measure, the Freedom Front has fallen to a minuscule 0.5 per cent and the remainder (Other) have dropped to 4 per cent between them. This latter category contains expected provincial variations: the United Democratic Movement accounts for 5.7 per cent of the 12.7 per cent in the Eastern Cape; the African Christian Democratic Party for 3 per cent of the 5.3 per cent in the Free State; and the United Christian Democratic Party for 5.2 per cent of the 8.5 per cent in the North West.


However in the two provinces that the ANC does not control, large numbers either said they did not know which party they would vote for, did not intend to vote or refused to say. In the Western Cape more than a quarter of the electorate took refuge in this category and more than 20 per cent in KwaZulu-Natal.

In the Western Cape, where the ANC and the current governing coalition have roughly equal support, many respondents probably wanted to avoid that collision of forces. It is also probable that many IFP voters in KwaZulu-Natal have either disguised themselves as ANC voters or have refused to answer and that therefore the survey underestimates IFP support. Certainly, this has been the lesson of all previous surveys. Subtracting those who fell into the "don't know and refuse to say" category, we recalculated the party balance on the basis of those with positive opinion only.

When we broke down the electorate by race and language, it was clear that racial polarisation remains extremely strong (Table 2). We found 81 per cent of whites supporting the DP, NNP or DA and 83.9 per cent of Africans supporting the ANC and South African Communist Party, with the other minority communities now fairly equally split. The ACDP accounts for most of the white vote in the Other category (3.6 per cent out of 4.6 per cent) and nearly two thirds of these voters are English speaking.

  Table 2: Party preference, by race

   African  Coloured   Asian  White
All  white 
 ANC/SACP  83.9  47.3 46.0   0.6   6.2 2.4 
 NNP 1.8 26.7 28.0   12.2 4.9   9.3
 DP 2.6 17.8  16.0  56.1 77.8  63.6
 DA  - 2.7   4.0 22.3  3.7 17.4
 PAC  0.5 0.7 -
 IFP  7.7  - 2.0   -  0.8
 UDM  1.8   - 4.0   -
 FF  0.3   -  2.7   -  2.0
 Other  1.4   5.5  6.1  7.4   4.6
 D/K*  13.5 28.4 21.9 16.9 17.3  21.1


The figures in Table 2 raise the question of whether the DP really needed to reach a deal with the New National Party. Even in the Western Cape it had drawn level with the NNP and everywhere else it was well ahead. Moreover, it had comfortably increased its lead over the NNP since 1994. Had the DP allowed the NNP leadership to accept a counter-offer from the ANC instead, it might have suffered some embarrassment over the local elections, but it could also have had the satisfaction of seeing more "Pik Bothas" joining the ANC, while the rest of NNP's electorate came over to the DP.

The Democratic Alliance, however, was immediately more attractive to Afrikaans-speaking voters than to others and it may well be that the formation of the DA will enable Afrikaners to forsake the old NNP without any feelings of leaving the ethnic laager.


The contrast between the NNP, DP and DA electorates was striking. At the middle of this year the NNP electorate was only 23 per cent white, a quarter African and 38 per cent coloured. The DA was much more attractive to white voters but the important question will be whether the NNP and DA can win over working-class coloureds to the new alliance. The DP was still a two-thirds white party. Nevertheless one in every six of its voters was an African and fully one third of its supporters were non-white. This is clearly the way ahead for the Opposition.