Since 1994, South Africa has consistently held free, fair elections and the country’s Independent Electoral Commission is held in high esteem across the continent and globe. But while we know that South Africans can vote, a critical question remains: how do South Africans make their voting choices?

That’s why Professor Leila Patel and colleagues at the CSDA have collected three waves of data – in 2017in 2018 and in 2019 – about what shapes voters’ choices at the ballot box. Their focus, working with this data, is to understand what factors influence voters’ party choices and to explore whether socio-economic well-being influences their choices. Collecting and analysing several waves of data allows for robust results, and means the researchers have been able to track changes and identify trends over time.

The most recent study was based on data collected after the 2019 general elections. The African National Congress (ANC), which has governed since 1994, won these elections with 57.50 % of the vote, though it lost some of its majority. The Democratic Alliance (DA), the official national opposition, won 20.77 % of the vote; the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with 10.80 % of national votes, was the third-biggest party at the polls.

The report is available here, Prof Patel also co-authored an article with Emeritus Professor Yolanda Sadie for the Journal of African Elections that examined the 2019 data. based on the unpacks how voters viewed individual politicians – particularly various parties’ presidential candidates – as well as assessing the role that perceptions about corruption, and trust in various institutions, played in people’s voting choices. It also examines socio-economic well-being, which was a predictor of party choice in the first two surveys. This did not play the same role in the third wave. Another factor – democratic rights – emerged as being important to voters’ choices in the 2019 elections. The forth wave conducted in November 2020 will be the last survey and assesses an additional factor namely, the influence of Covid-19 on voter choice.