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Pre-Parliamentary Elections Survey Report: Vast reservoir of "unharnessed"
Opinion Institute (MPOI)
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report is based on a national survey conducted by the Mass Public
Opinion Institute (MPOI) as part of its core research activities
of gauging the heartbeat of the nation on key issues of national
importance. The forthcoming March 31, 2005 parliamentary elections
are one such event and to probe public opinion on these elections
and related matters, MPOI carried out a national survey in December
2004/January 2005. The survey was in the context of the suspension
by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of its participation
in all national elections because of the alleged uneven electoral
playing field. This suspension has since been lifted and the MDC
has registered its candidates to contest the elections against its
opponents, principally the ruling Zanu (PF).
It is imperative
to give a brief overview of the political environment that prevailed
at the time this survey was conducted. If we compare the period
in which this survey was undertaken and that which prevailed prior
to the 2000 parliamentary and 2002 presidential elections, it is
indisputable evident that there has been a significant decline in
the incidence of political violence and a general improvement in
the ambience for elections. However, it is also evident that there
is considerable fear among the people. The field teams detected
and reported a high level of suspicion among the people, particularly
in the rural areas. Respondents were somehow hesitant first in agreeing
to be interviewed and in answering certain questions. The warnings
that we got from some of the villagers in the rural areas to be
"careful" are also indicative of the climate of fear that
characterized the period under review.
campaigning by all contesting parties had not heated up at the time
the survey was conducted, there was a conspicuous absence of the
opposition activity, particularly in the rural areas, which are
considered a stronghold of the ruling party.
The MPOI survey
registration, voting and elections
- Seven in
ten Zimbabweans said they are registered voters while the rest
who are unregistered cited handicaps including not knowing where
to register, putting registration off and not having birth certificates.
- The majority
of respondents do not bother to inspect the voters’ roll with
only three out of ten Zimbabwean doing so.
and unexpectedly in light of some persistent assertions about
the state of the voters’ roll, nearly three quarters of the electorate
say they trust the voters’ roll.
- Close to
90% of Zimbabweans view elections as important while 80% think
that elections influence their lives.
- Half the
electorate thinks the elections will be free and fair, three in
ten are not sure while two in ten say the elections won’t be free
- Up to nine
in ten Zimbabweans think their vote is a secret.
- Just over
90% say voter education is important but Zimbabweans are split
as to who should provide it. Four in ten say the Government should
provide voter education, a quarter would rather have NGOs do this
while 15% think political parties should do this.
- Radio is
an unrivalled source of political information with six in ten
Zimbabweans mentioning radio as their primary source followed
almost equally by word of mouth and newspapers.
On food aid
- Up to four
in ten respondents say they are food recipients.
- NGOs are
by far the key providers of food aid with nearly seven in ten
food recipients saying they received it from NGOs compared to
only one in ten who received it from Government-related bodies.
- As for the
criteria used in food distribution, only 8% reported party affiliation
as a criterion with a plurality saying they are not aware of the
electoral guidelines and recent electoral reforms
only a small minority (16%) know anything about the SADC guidelines.
- A slightly
bigger minority (28%) know about the electoral reforms introduced
by government while the rest do not.
- On the new
electoral reform to vote in only one day, just over half are not
supportive of this innovation while a third of Zimbabweans are
- There is
much more support for the use of translucent ballot boxes with
55 out of 100 Zimbabweans welcoming this but a third registered
- As for counting
of ballots at the polling stations, six in ten are supportive
but nearly a quarter are not.
- As of December
2004, well over half (57%), had not witnessed or heard of any
cases of political violence in their area while just over a third
had either witnessed or heard of such cases.
- It is revealing
that a significant proportion of Zimbabweans (slightly over half)
think violence influences the way people vote while four in ten
do not see the efficacy of violence in ‘persuading’ how people
On the March
- An overwhelming
proportion of Zimbabweans, close to 86%, declared their intention
to vote in the crucial March 31, 2005 elections. Given that less
than 70% of respondents are registered voters, there is a reservoir
of unregistered voters who intended to vote and were still to
register as voters at the time of this study.
- As to what
attracts them most, the party or the candidate, the electorate
is split with 47% saying the party is more important against 45%
who feel the candidate is more decisive. Relatedly, six out of
ten Zimbabweans consider the candidate’s plans to develop the
area as influencing their vote rather than the candidate’s party,
a position supported by two in ten respondents.
- On the most
crucial question of voter preferences, thirty in hundred Zimbabweans
intend to vote for the ruling Zanu (PF) party while nearly sixteen
in hundred expressed their preference for the main opposition
MDC party. So, 46% of Zimbabweans can be said to be the hard-core
pary supporters who have firm voting preferences. Of major significance
too is that up to 45 out every 100 potential voters are undecided,
a vast reservoir that awaits harnessing by the political gladiators.
- Lastly, and
as a parting shot, and without being probed 67% of Zimbabweans
yearn for a peaceful, free and fair election while 15% felt they
would rather have food on the table first.
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