Nigeria Set for Closest Election Ever –Survey Reveals

Nigerians go to the polls next week to elect the president and federal legislators who would lead the country for another four years. Afro barometer, “an African-led, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa” recently released the result of its survey on the election. OLAOLU BILAU breaks down the report and presents a modified, easy-to-understand version of the survey results. The findings are quite revealing…   

A Charged Political Atmosphere

The survey found a highly competitive political field, with much uncertainty about the prospects for credible and peaceful polls and about the outcome of the elections.

While most Nigerians look forward to voting and believe that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is prepared, many also express uncertainty about the likely integrity of the vote count and concerns about their personal security during the highly competitive elections.

Fifty percent of those interviewed expressed significant concern about political intimidation or violence in the current election environment, a dramatic increase from 34 percent just two years ago.

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2015 Elections: A Challenging Time

An insurgency has destabilized several states in northern Nigeria; oil prices have fallen, leading to declining public revenues and hampering economic growth; and major corruption allegations have captured public attention. The formation of a united opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), from a cluster of smaller parties has shifted the competitive landscape, presenting a serious challenge to the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

The quality of elections is also under scrutiny. Following flawed elections in 1999, 2003, and 2007, the 2011 elections showed marked improvement in organization, although they were marred by significant violence.

But do Nigerians have confidence in the electoral authorities and the quality of the electoral process? How motivated are voters to participate in the elections? Does the opposition present a viable alternative? And just how polarized is the electorate? These are some of the pressing questions as Nigeria approaches a momentous election.

The public mood in Nigeria is generally pessimistic, although the government gets mixed marks, 74 percent of Nigerians say the country is going “in the wrong direction,” a modest increase from two years ago.

Only 29 percent of Nigerians are satisfied with “the way democracy works in this country”.

President Jonathan’s Approval Rating in the Current Poll is 40 percent, down from 49 percent in 2012.

Seventy Eight Percent Nigerians Express Intention to Vote

The intention to vote increases with age, 87 percent of those aged 56-65 say they intend to vote, compared to 74 percent among 18- to 25-year olds.

Voting intentions also vary across zones. At one end of the spectrum, citizens in the North East are highly motivated, with 85 percent, saying they intend to vote. However, some voters in this insecure region seem certain to be disenfranchised due to takeover of territory by insurgents or population displacement. By comparison, 73 percent of citizens in South-south express an intention to vote, the lowest level among the six zones.

 Trust in Political Parties Remained Low

Although the opposition has attracted some confidence from the public, citizens broadly perceive a two-way choice between the ruling party and the main opposition party.

Nigerians Express Growing Trust in Opposition Parties

Compared with the 2012 survey, trust in opposition parties has risen from 24 percent to 31 percent, while trust in the ruling party has remained unchanged at 29 percent.

A large majority – 68 percent – say there are important differences between the ruling and opposition parties.

Nigerians are almost evenly split on the question of which party would do best in managing critical issues. Citizens favour the ruling party in managing health and controlling prices while slightly preferring the opposition for fighting corruption.

Presidential Race is too close to Call

Among all respondents, 39 percent say they expect to vote for the PDP, while 38 percent say they will vote for the APC.

Among likely voters (those saying they will probably or almost certainly vote), the vote is evenly divided: 42 percent express a preference for the ruling PDP and 42 percent favour the opposition, APC.

Nigerians anticipate a close race. When asked their expectation of the outcome, 40 percent predicted a win for the PDP, while 38 percent expected the APC to prevail.

Substantial Differences Are Evident Across the Country’s Geo-political Zones

A preponderance of citizens expressed support for the PDP in the North Central (45 percent for PDP/35 percent for APC).

In the South East, 61 percent had support for PDP/ 4 percent APC) and South-south, 65 percent PDP/20 percent APC.

The APC is favoured in the North West (59 percent APC/20 percent PDP) and South West (46 percent APC/19 percent PDP), while those in the North-east are evenly divided between the two parties (43 percent PDP/44 percent APC).

About the Survey

Fieldwork for Afrobarometer Round 6 fieldwork in Nigeria was conducted by Practical Sampling International (PSI) in collaboration with the CLEEN Foundation. PSI interviewed 2,400 adult Nigerians between 5 and 27 December 2014.1

The sample covered 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It was not possible to conduct interviews in three states in the North East zone – Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe – due to unrest in the region, so substitutions of sampling units were made from neighbouring states in the same zone.

Source: Afro barometer

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