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Afrobarometer Tracks Opinion and Democratic Trends
February 25, 2015

Afrobarometer is an African-led, nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa. Since its 1999 inception, Afrobarometer has conducted six rounds of surveys. Afrobarometer selects nationally representative samples of participants and conducts face-to-face interviews in the languages of its respondents.

Afrobarometer results are widely quoted in the African media and considered to be one of the richest, most objective and most comprehensive data sources available from diverse African nations.

Social scientists from across Africa collaborate to produce Afrobarometer research. Several African institutions provide support and coordination, including the Center for Democratic Development in Ghana, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa, the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy in Benin. Michigan State University and the University of Cape Town provide technical support to the network.

Funding comes from an array of donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank.

Summaries of some recent Afrobarometer survey findings are cited below. For a complete view of the network’s research, see Afrobarometer.org.

Nigeria heads for closest election on record

An Afrobarometer survey conducted in December 2014 revealed what researchers called a highly competitive political field. The results, released before the recent government decision to postpone the voting, also found uncertainty about the possible outcome of the election and the prospects for a credible and peaceful voting process. While most Nigerians look forward to voting and believe that the Independent National Electoral Commission is prepared, many also expressed uncertainty in Afrobarometer surveys about the likely integrity of the vote count.

Based on its findings, Afrobarometer reports that the race between the ruling People’s Democratic Party and its main challenger, the All Progressives Congress, is too close to call.

Do men and women have different voter preferences? If so, why?

An Afrobarometer research paper released in 2015 contrasts male and female views on political engagement. Gender quotas to increase women’s representation, employed in a number of African countries, are often motivated by the assumption that men and women have different policy preferences. In contrast to this assumption, Afrobarometer researchers found that gender differences in preferences are quite small on average, but vary significantly across both policy domains and countries.

In Malawi, women lag in political participation; support for women’s leadership declines.

Malawian women are less likely to be involved in political discussions, according to a 2014 Afrobarometer survey, and show less interest in public affairs than their male counterparts.The researchers contrast this finding with the national experience of female leadership from 2012 to 2014, when President Joyce Banda led the country.

Women in Malawi are also less likely than men to attend a political rally or campaign meeting or to engage in candidate advocacy, according to the polling of some 2,400 adult Malawians. The Afrobarometer results unveiled in February 2015 also showed a sharp decline in public support for women’s political leadership.

Kenyans and Tanzanians are surveyed on the formation of an East African Federation

Since 2013, some political leaders in the five countries of the East African Community — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi — have promoted the benefits of an East African Federation.

An Afrobarometer survey finds that many citizens in the two largest member states are not convinced that integration will lead to promised benefits for their countries. Public-opinion surveys of Kenyans and Tanzanians conducted in 2011–2012 examined attitudes toward the potential impact of an integrated region. Researchers questioned participants on the availability of jobs, managing conflict, controlling corruption, strengthening democracy and controlling prices. On none of these five issues did a majority of Tanzanians say that a federation would have a positive impact, and on only two issues — availability of jobs and controlling prices — did a majority of Kenyans expect improvement through a federation.

One key finding from the report released in January 2015 shows that sizable minorities of respondents in both countries actually think democracy and corruption controls might degrade in the formation of a regional federation.

The complete versions of these reports and many others are available at Afrobarometer.org. The organization has conducted opinion surveys in more than 35 African nations in its 15-year history in pursuit of its motto, “Let the people have their say.”