Carol Paton Editor at Large

With a week to go to elections, the SA Institute for Race Relations (IRR) has published a new election poll that shows both the ANC and the DA in serious trouble.

On the national ballot, the ANC has lost its majority dropping to 49.5%, down 5.2 percentage points from the IRR’s previous poll in February. This is an unexpected break from the trend as in previous elections the ANC has strengthened steadily until voting day. However, when modeled on a 71% turnout of voters on May 8, a scenario considered plausible as not everyone will vote, the ANC reaches 51%.  

The ANC is also in trouble in Gauteng and stands on 42.8% on the provincial ballot. Modeled on a turnout of 70.4%, ANC party support decreases to 39%. In this scenario, the DA also scores 39% of the Gauteng vote, and in an even lower turnout scenario (67.7%) the DA comes in stronger than the ANC at 40% compared to the ANC’s 39%.

Turnout scenarios are an important dimension of determining party support and the survey questions attempt to ascertain from participants how likely they are to vote on the day. When the turnout is not factored into the Gauteng survey, the DA stands on 31.9%.

In the Western Cape the DA is in trouble and stands on 44.6% on the provincial ballot down 5.5 percentage points from its February showing. The ACDP appears to be the biggest reason for this decline and polled 7% on the provincial ballot, twice as much as much as it scored in February. Together with Patricia de Lille’s Good party, which has 3% support, the DA has lost 10 percentage points to smaller parties in the province. However, on a turnout scenario of 71.9%, the DA’s support rises to 50%.

The ANC has also lost ground in the Western Cape to the EFF, which shows an impressive 5.8 percentage point increase since February when it polled only 1%.

The IRR’s head of politics and governance Gareth van Onselen said the results must be treated with caution because of “the squeeze” phenomenon that tends to play out in the two weeks before voting.

“The two weeks before the election are the squeeze period in which bigger parties tend to go up and smaller parties go down as voters are put under pressure. That squeeze has not started properly yet,” he said.

The IRR’s poll varies enormously from that conducted by market research agency Ipsos, which published a new survey on Sunday. In the Ipsos poll on the national ballot, the ANC stands at 56.9% but 61% on a 71% turnout; and the DA at 15.2% but 19% on a 71% turnout.