10 Oct 1997

10 October 1997


An opinion poll released by IDASA this weeks shows that the National
Party is in severe crisis with support declining dramatically. While the
ANC had a decrease in support in its first year in government, when voters
had unrealistic expectations about the speed of transformation, the situation
is now reversed with a significant increase in support since 1995. On the
other hand, the NP, which showed a slight increase in its support between
1994 and 1995(in terms of people who would vote for the party, as opposed
to party supporters) has suffered a dramatic decline in support since then.

The report states:

    "Hamstrung by its apartheid history, the National Party has been
    racked by internal tensions and resignations... The party is increasingly
    becoming a regional party retreating to the Western Cape. Its withdrawal
    from the Government of National Unity ... the resignation of de Klerk...,
    the revelations of gross human rights abuses by NP-aligned security forces
    during the apartheid years, and the defection by ten NP councillors in
    the Pretoria City council have certainly not helped."

Highlights of the Survey

Changes in partisan support

This category deals with people who identify a particular party as "their"
party, when asked if they think of themselves as close to any particular

  • In 1994, 15 per cent of voters identified with the NP.

By 1997, this had fallen to 6 per cent.

  • The proportion of voters who say they would vote for the NP has fallen
    from 15.9 per cent to 10.4 per cent (between 1994 and 1997).
  • While the number of voters who identify the ANC as their party has
    dropped, the number of people who say they will vote for the ANC is roughly
    the same as it was in September 1994. The fact that the percentage of people
    who say they will vote for the ANC is much the same as it was in 1994 is
    particularly significant because all over the world the degree of support
    for a party in power tends to drop substantially in the middle of its term
    of office.
  • ANC support has already increased from a low of 45.6 per cent in 1995,
    to 52.5 per cent in June this year.
  • NP support has been declining steadily since 1994 and continues to

Massive loss of support for NP crosses racial lines

The National Party has failed to maintain support in any sector of the
population. It is haemorrhaging supporters from its two strongest groups
of supporters, White and Coloured voters.

  • In 1994, 52.8 per cent of Coloured voters declared their support for
    the National Party. By mid-1997, this had fallen to 27.7 per cent.
  • ANC support in the Coloured community has increased from 14.9 per cent
    in 1995 to 24.5 per cent today.

Dramatic loss of support for the NP amongst Whites

  • In 1994, 48.3 per cent of Whites supported the NP.
  • Currently, NP support among Whites has plummeted to 18.8 per cent.

Provincial Findings

ANC stands to win the Western Cape!

The survey indicates that were an election held tomorrow, we would have
a very good chance of winning the Western Cape. The loss of support for
the NP amongst Coloured voters could tip the balance in this province.
The proportion of voters who identified strongly with the NP (as supporters,
as opposed to voters) has plummeted from 41.2 per cent to 19.1 per cent
in the Western Cape between 1994 and 1997. The poll shows that if an election
were held tomorrow support for an ANC provincial government would be 34.3
per cent, as opposed to 31.6 per cent for the Nats.

Loss of ANC support in the Northern Cape

This province, sadly, is the dark cloud on the horizon, where it seems
the NP has gained massive support to our detriment.

ANC support holds firm in other provinces

The results for the rest of the country show that our support is growing
from the low of 1995. Some provinces even show an increase in support over
the 1994 survey results.

Where have all the NP Voters gone?

While the ANC has succeeded in rebuilding its support in terms of the
proportion of voters who would vote for the party if an election were to
be held tomorrow, the number of voters who identify the ANC as "their"
party has declined. This indicates that we need to work hard to be rebuild
our branches and build community contact through our constituency work
so that our supporters identify strongly with our structures.

We must be aware that the voters who have left the NP have not come
over to us but see themselves as independent. It is these voters that we
must reach before the next election.

Key Political Messages

  • As delivery speeds up and expectations become more realistic and the
    people of South Africa participate more fully in the democratic processes
    of transforming our nation and restoring the pride and dignity that apartheid
    destroyed, we can expect our support to grow.
  • Voters who supported the NP at the last election recognise that the
    NP cannot reform itself to play a constructive role in the new South Africa.
  • The NP will remain locked in the attitudes of the past. Its failure
    to elect a leader who is other than a white Afrikaner male reflects its
    inability to move with the times.