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83% of voters choose policies over freebies

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“Most Zimbabweans say they vote for candidates whose policies they agree with, rather than for candidates who give them gifts and money or who belong to the same ethnic group or religious faith,” the report reads.

BY SILAS NKALA AN estimated 83% of urban voters want candidates with clear policies than those that dangle gifts, but aspiring candidates offering freebies tend to enjoy support in rural areas, an Afrobarometer survey says.

Zimbabwe’s electioneering period has been marred with reports of vote-buying, where candidates donate all kinds of freebies, from T-shirts to grain.

Findings of the Afrobarometer survey released on Wednesday indicate that voting trends are influenced more by policies than gifts, although regionalism remains a factor.

“Most Zimbabweans say they vote for candidates whose policies they agree with, rather than for candidates who give them gifts and money or who belong to the same ethnic group or religious faith,” the report reads.

“But a majority of citizens also say they favour candidates from their own province, suggesting political preferences along regional lines.

“More than eight in 10 Zimbabweans (83%) say they vote for candidates whose policies they agree with, rather than for candidates who give them gifts and money (33%) or belong to the same ethnic group (29%) or religious faith (20%). But more than half (54%) of citizens also ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they vote for candidates from their own province.”

As the country heads to the 2023 polls, there are reports of some political parties distributing freebies for votes.

The Afrobarometer team, led by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, interviewed 1 200 adult citizens of Zimbabwe between March 28 and April 10, 2022 for the survey.

Previous standard surveys were conducted in Zimbabwe in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2017, and 2021.

“The inclination to vote for candidates from one’s own province is stronger among rural residents (57%) than urbanites (48%) and among women (57%) compared to men (50%). Manicaland (36%) and Mashonaland West (46%) are the only provinces where this is not the majority view,” the report adds.

“Voting for candidates who give gifts and money or attend to personal needs, which is endorsed by 33% of respondents overall, is more popular in rural areas (36%) than in cities (27%).

“Citizens with moderate lived poverty (37%) are more likely to favour this approach than those experiencing high or no/low lived poverty. Manicaland residents (44%) are almost three times as likely as their counterparts in Mashonaland West (16%) to say they would vote for someone who gives them gifts or money.”

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