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Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

A top election pundit has shot holes in the latest Ipsos poll on political party support published on Tuesday, saying that the high number of "undecided" voters in the survey has distorted the results, particularly the finding that the DA’s support has plummeted.

Ipsos publishes SA’s largest and most influential survey-based poll on political support every six months. The latest survey, conducted between April and June, showed ANC support on 60%; the DA on 13% and the EFF on 7%. For the DA, which won 22.2% of the national vote in 2014, the survey result indicated a shocking collapse.

The Ipsos poll also showed the DA dropping to 28% in the Western Cape where it governs and where in 2014 it won 59.3% of the vote.

'All parties are being understated'

Dawie Scholtz — an independent political analyst whose data analysis has led the interpretation of SA’s polling trends over the last two elections — on Tuesday interrogated the survey in a Twitter exchange with Ipsos, concluding that "all parties are being understated; the DA in particular are being severely understated".

In response to the question of which party they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow, a remarkably high number of people — 15% — said they did not know. In some election polls, survey results are further modelled so that undecided voters are assigned to parties on the basis of other responses about their preferences.

Ipsos does not do this and described the survey only "as a dipstick at a point in time and not a prediction of support".

Scholtz said the high number of undecided and unallocated voters meant that the 60%-13%-7% result for the three biggest parties "is not a close approximation of voting intentions".

An analysis of the undecided voters by race showed why the DA was disproportionately affected by undecideds. While only 15% of the "undecided" were black, 23% were white, 40% coloured and 15% Indian.

"The unallocated voters are disproportionately former minority DA voters who are likely to drift back to the DA once push comes to shove," Scholtz said.

The survey nonetheless was a large red flag for the DA, he said, as it showed that a large number of those voters that it won away from the ANC since 1994 were now reconsidering their loyalties.

While the numbers were not close to being right, the survey did, however, give a good idea of the general direction of things.

"The survey is right though on the three big things: the ANC is making a comeback; the EFF is holding firm and the DA has stagnated or is possibly losing support," he said.

DA chief strategist Jonathan Moakes said that the inaccuracy of polls globally showed that "the only poll that matters is the one on election day". He said the Ipsos poll was "inaccurate and can be misleading. For instance, it included unregistered voters in the survey."

Moakes said it was not only the DA’s support that was under-represented but that of all opposition parties. For instance, the survey showed the IFP’s support in KwaZulu-Natal to be only 3%, which is not borne out by recent by-election results in which the IFP support has been strengthening. The IFP won 10% of the provincial vote in 2014.

Scholtz also flagged the IFP’s support in KwaZulu-Natal as "wonky" and white support for the ANC, which Ipsos said is 13%. "I would need to see more data to believe that.

"At this stage, I would say it’s a standard error in a small sample. There is also no by-election evidence of that."

Ipsos spokeswoman Antonia Squara said, "this is what the data is saying … the ANC does have quite a strong following among whites."

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