A survey commissioned by NewsDay on the voting intentions of Zimbabweans has revealed MDC-T will win the next general election while Zanu PF will come second and the revived Zapu a distant third, but 40% of the electorate might not vote.
The survey was conducted by the Public Mass Opinion Institute in August using a nationally representative sample of 1 062 people. The results came out last week.
Respondents were asked to indicate their voting intentions by stating the party candidate they would vote for if an election was held on the day of the interview.
However, it is important to note that there was “a large block of voters who refused to reveal their voting intentions, preferring instead not to answer the question (17%), or claiming that their vote was their secret (24%).
“So, up to four in every 10 voters were unwilling to share their voting preferences, a very high statistic by any polling standard,” says the survey.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that this was largely due to alleged political intimidation and harassment prior to, and during the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee-led public consultations.
In other words, a heavy and dark cloud of fear seems to have enveloped the electorate during the survey period. The survey says the high refusal rate — for whatever reason — is a cause for grave concern while at the same time seriously distorting partisan support.
The results of the survey show that 32% would vote for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T while Zanu PF led by President Robert Mugabe — who has been at the helm of government for the past three decades — would come second with 18% and the revived Zapu led by former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa — which is bubbling with confidence after its recent “successful congress” — would only manage 2%.
Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn led by Simba Makoni — also a former Zanu PF politburo member who lost dismally in the March 2008 presidential elections — would get less than 1% alongside MDC-M led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The combined vote for “other parties” would attract a total of 6% support.
According to the survey, a third (32%) of all respondents would vote for the MDC-T and that support base has a significant — albeit small — urban and male bias.
Nearly two in 10 (18%) of voters would opt for the former ruling Zanu PF party and the support base has a distinctively rural bias but is spread evenly across gender.
The firm which conducted the survey warns “caution” in interpreting the voting preferences because of the large reservoir of “refusals”.
“No one knows who (the refusals) would vote for and yet whoever they decide to vote for could yield the decisive result,” says the survey.
“They may also ‘vote’ not to vote, as has become the pattern in the last several general elections where a large segment of the electorate did not turn out to vote. This suggests a lot of hard work for civic educators, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.”
The results of the research show that half of the “refusals” were concentrated in Mashonaland West – traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold – followed by Matabeleland North (48%), Harare (47%) and Mashonaland East (43%).
“If the ‘fear thesis’ has any credence, then the least fearful electorate is in Masvingo (28% refusals), followed by Manicaland (34%).”
In terms of provincial spread, the survey shows that none of the parties has majority support in any of the country’s 10 provinces. However, half (actually 49,6%) of Masvingo would vote for the MDC-T, followed by Bulawayo (42%), Manicaland (37%) and Midlands (35%). The party would attract little support in Mashonaland Central (13%) and Mashonaland West (18%). Harare would lend 29% support to the MDC-T.
Zanu PF would do fairly well in Mashonaland Central where 42% would vote for it, followed by Mashonaland West (27%) and Matabeleland South (20%).
It would do badly in Bulawayo (8%), Matabeleland North (10%) and Harare (11%). In terms of age, the survey shows that slightly over a third (35%) of the youth prefer the MDC-T, 19% Zanu PF and 2% would vote for Zapu.
“We also find that another 36% are refusals while 7% would vote for other parties,” says the survey. As for the middle-aged, 34% would choose an MDC-T candidate, 16% would lend their vote to Zanu PF while 41% were in the non-disclosure category.
Nearly a quarter of the old folk are for Zanu PF, two in 10 prefer the MDC-T while almost half would not disclose.
In the presidential elections in 2008, Tsvangirai of MDC-T had 47,9% and Mugabe had 43,2%.