INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Survey Shows Dramatic Decline in Public Support

Published: Thu 24 Sep 2009 03:08 PM
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4944
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ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
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STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV PHUM PREL EAID ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: SURVEY SHOWS DRAMATIC DECLINE IN PUBLIC SUPPORT
FOR MUGABE AND ZANU-PF
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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) According to a survey conducted by the Mass Public
Opinion Institute (MPOI) in May 2009, if an election for
president was held in Zimbabwe today, support for ZANU-PF
would be at an all-time low -- just over 10 percent -- while
the MDC would enjoy 57 percent support. Large majorities in
both urban and rural areas said they supported the inclusive
government, and an even larger majority (78 percent)
indicated that they trusted Tsvangirai somewhat or a lot. By
comparison, only 35 percent indicated that they trusted
Mugabe. On job performance, approximately 82 percent
approved of Tsvangirai's efforts in office, while only a
quarter approved of Mugabe's job performance. Two-thirds of
respondents supported lifting sanctions. On the economy,
responses indicated greater optimism about Zimbabwe's
economic future and the quality of life for Zimbabweans. END
SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Researchers from the Harare-based MPOI presented
findings of a May 2009 nationwide public opinion survey,
entitled "The Quality of Democracy and Governance in
Zimbabwe," to a group of like-minded donor nations on
September 22. The survey examined attitudes regarding voting
intentions, performance of the inclusive government,
international sanctions, and current economic conditions. It
was conducted from May 9 to May 23, 2009 in Zimbabwe as part
of the Afro-Barometer Round 4 process. (NOTE: Afro-Barometer
(http://www.afrobarometer.org) is a public opinion research
project covering 20 countries, which receives funding from
USAID, among other donors. The Senior Advisor to the project
is Michael Bratton, Professor of Political Science at
Michigan State University. END NOTE.)
3. (SBU) The survey results are expected to be made public
on September 29. Until release, they should be kept close
hold.
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The Survey Methodology
----------------------
4. (SBU) The MOI survey involved a nation-wide random
sample of 1,200 adult Zimbabweans aged 18 and above who were
chosen using a "Probability Proportionate to Population Size"
(PPPS) methodology. The researchers used the 2008 Zimbabwe
population projected figures from the 2002 census figures.
150 enumeration areas (EA) were randomly sampled and eight
interviews were conducted in each EA.
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ZANU-PF and Mugabe Support Eroded,
Even in "Strongholds"
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5. (SBU) Respondents were asked for which party they would
vote if presidential elections were held tomorrow. While 25
percent refused to respond, 57 percent said they would vote
for MDC-T and only 10 percent said they would vote for
ZANU-PF. Four percent didn't know, four percent said they
would not participate, and other parties, including MDC-M,
PF-ZAPU, and Kusile Mavambo Dawn, received less than one
percent nationally. (COMMENT: It is reasonable to assume
Qpercent nationally. (COMMENT: It is reasonable to assume
that, given past electoral violence targeted against MDC
supporters, most of the non-respondents would support the
MDC-T. END COMMENT.)
HARARE 00000768 002 OF 004
6. (SBU) When disaggregated by urban versus rural location
or by age, support for the MDC-T remained steady between 56
and 59 percent, with the exception of voters over 51 years of
age (48 percent). ZANU-PF commanded only 13 percent support
from rural voters, 4 percent from urban voters, and 14
percent from voters over the age of 50. ZANU-PF's highest
levels of support were in Mashonaland Central (20 percent)
and Matabeleland South (17 percent). (COMMENT: These results
belie the continued belief by some analysts and academics
that ZANU-PF still enjoys considerable support in rural areas
and in particular within the three Mashonaland provinces.
END COMMENT.)
7. (SBU) When asked if they trusted the President and the
Prime Minister, 37 percent responded that they trusted Mugabe
"somewhat" or "a lot" versus 78 percent for Tsvangirai. The
gulf in opinion regarding the President and the Prime
Minister was even greater when respondents were asked how
well each was doing his job; 81 percent approved or strongly
approved of Tsvangirai's performance while only 23 percent
approved of Mugabe's efforts. (COMMENT: Surprisingly,
Mugabe's levels of trust and approval were both substantially
higher than ZANU-PF's projected 10 percent support from
voters, suggesting Zimbabweans have somewhat more residual
affection for Mugabe than they do for his party. END
COMMENT.)
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Public Supports GNU, But Not Sanctions
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8. (SBU) Public support for the inclusive government was
high with two-thirds of all respondents and equal numbers in
both urban and rural areas saying it was the "best option to
resolve the political crisis." A majority of respondents
from every province -- ranging from 53 to 74 percent --
supported the inclusive government. The three Mashonaland
provinces, where much of last year's election violence
occurred, recorded the highest percentage of support for the
new government, ranging from 71 to 74 percent.
9. (SBU) When asked to choose whether sanctions were hurting
ordinary Zimbabweans and should be removed, or whether
sanctions only targeted a few individuals resistant to change
and should be maintained, over two-thirds called for the
removal of sanctions. Slightly less than a quarter said they
should remain. Despite their agreement with negative
official rhetoric on sanctions, most Zimbabweans were aware
of U.S. assistance. When asked how much the U.S. does to
help Zimbabwe, 57 percent said somewhat or a lot. Similar
numbers of Zimbabweans credit SADC and the UN with helping;
South Africa (77 percent) and donors and NGOs other than the
UN (80 percent) get more credit than the U.S., while China
(45 percent) and the UK (37 percent) get less.
10. (SBU) MPOI researchers noted a significant increase in
what they term the "political patience" of the population.
Qwhat they term the "political patience" of the population.
For instance, when asked whether the government should be
given more time to deal with inherited problems, two-thirds
of respondents agreed (compared to only 30 percent in 2005
and 52 percent in 2004). Another indicator of political
patience was that four years ago, 65 percent of those
interviewed said that "if the present system cannot produce
results, another system should be tried." This year, only 30
percent agreed with that statement. (COMMENT: The increase
in "political patience" would appear to be a result of
support for the new government. END COMMENT.)
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HARARE 00000768 003 OF 004
Respondents More Positive on Economy
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11. (SBU) Public attitudes on the economy were less negative
than one might have expected, with roughly equal numbers of
respondents saying macro-economic conditions were "bad" or
"very bad" (43 percent) compared to those who described
conditions as "good" or "very good." The percentage of
people describing conditions as bad in May 2009 was much
lower than those registered in 1999 and 2005, during both of
which years 94 percent of respondents described
macro-economic conditions negatively. Curiously, responses
in 2009 are only slightly more favorable about the economy
that they were in 2004, when 49 percent were negative.
12. (SBU) In describing their own situations, respondents
were again more optimistic than one might have expected with
slightly more people describing their personal economic
conditions as "good" or "very good" (38 percent), than those
describing them as "bad" or "very bad" (36 percent). Once
again, the percentage of people saying personal conditions
were "bad or "very bad" was markedly lower than in earlier
years (in 2004 and 2005, 54 and 88 percent of those
interviewed, respectively, called conditions bad or very
bad). (COMMENT: Given that only 12 percent of survey
respondents said they worked full time for a cash income
while just 10 percent earned cash for part-time work,
people's relative optimism is remarkable and probably a
result of faith in the new government. END COMMENT.)
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Evidence of Alienation
----------------------
13. (SBU) Optimism about the new government did not overcome
negative perceptions of fairness and rule of law in Zimbabwe.
When asked whether government officials who commit crimes go
unpunished, only 19 percent said rarely or never while
seventy percent said often or always. When the same question
was asked about ordinary people, 60 percent responded that
ordinary people who break the law rarely or never go
unpunished. Asked how much they personally fear becoming a
victim of political violence or intimidation during an
election campaign, sixty-eight percent said a lot and only 9
percent said not at all. Asked how many government officials
are involved in corruption, 36 percent said most or all, 45
percent said some, and only 5 percent said none. Elected
officials received a similar rating, police were considered
even more corrupt, while traditional leaders and
judges/magistrates were considered less corrupt.
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COMMENT
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14. (SBU) The lack of support for Mugabe and ZANU-PF in
former areas of staunch support, such as Mashonaland, is
startling. The wave of violence unleashed in Mashonaland and
other provinces in 2008 following the elections, combined
with an economy that steadily declined during this decade,
which many believe was the result of ZANU-PF mismanagement
Qwhich many believe was the result of ZANU-PF mismanagement
and corruption, has cost Mugabe and his party dearly. If a
reasonably "free and fair" election were held today, Mugabe
and ZANU-PF would be swept from power.
15. (SBU) In stark contrast, Tsvangirai enjoyed a high
degree of public support in May. We suspect that remains
true today as Tsvangirai appears to be getting credit for an
increase in political space and marginal economic
HARARE 00000768 004 OF 004
improvements. It is noteworthy that he has drawn large
crowds at rallies throughout the country. But people are
looking for continued improvements in availability of food,
education, health, and infrastructure; if improvements do not
take place, his popularity and that of the MDC could wane. A
new poll will be conducted in October 2009. END COMMENT.
PETTERSON
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