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Ipsos poll: Online South Africans have more confidence in government than in business

A majority of online South Africans are confident that the national government is effectively addressing the threat posed by the spread of the coronavirus, even as lockdowns and closures force millions to isolate themselves. They also expressed their confidence in international institutions in handling the crisis.

The poll results show that about six in every 10 online South Africans expressed confidence in the South African government (61%) dealing with the spread of the pandemic. SA businesses are not (yet?) viewed with confidence regarding Covid-19 as only slightly more than half (52%) expressed confidence in the institutions that should play a key role in keeping our economy going. However, with more and more businesses taking bold and active steps to support communities during these difficult times, this result might change rapidly in the weeks to come.

On the other end of the scale, the South African border control authorities are viewed rather negatively regarding their handling of the crisis, as half (50%) indicated that they are not confident in the actions taken by the SA border control authorities to curb the inflow or outflow of possibly infected people into (or out of) the country.

Tracking opinions about Covid-19 on a global scale

Ipsos has been conducting a global tracking survey since early February 2020, aiming to monitor and understand drivers of change in six broad areas:

  • Purchase metrics and purchase intentions
  • Social issues and response to actions
  • Incidence of counter-measures
  • Behavioural and attitudinal measures
  • Responsibility and credibility
  • Long-term outlook

The global tracking survey has been conducted in the high-risk and heaviest-hit countries. However, in South Africa, the first wave has just been completed, but the survey will now be conducted regularly. Given the rapidly evolving nature of circumstances and the spread of the virus, questions in the survey get adapted regularly.

When analysing results and reporting on findings it was possible to do some comparisons between South African results and the results of similar questions asked in other parts of the world. The results show that – in the majority of the countries participating in this study – citizens expressed confidence in their respective governments’ efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

Across the world, Chinese (97%), Vietnamese (94%) and Indians (85%) expressed the most confidence in their governments. They are followed by citizens from Canada (74%), Italy (66%), South Africa (61%), Australia (60%), the UK and Brazil (both at 59%), France, the USA and Russia (all at 50%). Looking at the bottom of the list, less than half of citizens in Germany (49%), Japan (48%) and Mexico (45%) expressed confidence in the way their national governments are handling the crisis situation around the coronavirus.

Perception of threat

A question was asked about the magnitude of the threat posed by the coronavirus to the world, and the citizens’ country, local community, family and to them personally.

The results for South Africa show that online citizens believe that the biggest threat is to the world as a whole (94%), as well as to South Africa as a country (90%).

Similarly, most global citizens appear to be fairly concerned about the threat that the coronavirus poses on different levels (personal, family and community), but there is a much higher perceived threat at a national and global level. This view of coronavirus (and Covid-19) as a global threat is prevalent across the different countries surveyed.

Vietnamese (62%) and Italians (56%) perceive the virus to be a threat to them personally, while citizens in the USA (29%), Australia (28%), Japan (26%), Canada (25%) and Russia (17%) are least likely to agree that the virus poses a threat to them personally. (Again, this might be one of the measures changing rapidly in weeks to come, depending on the spread of the virus to new territories, more people testing positive for Covid-19, more deaths registered and the scarcity of equipment – like PPE, ventilators and ICU beds – becoming more and more evident).

Sources of information

The following question on the confidence in sources of information was posed to citizens in different countries: “How much confidence, if any, do you have in the accuracy of TV, the government of your country and local health authorities as sources of information?”

This question was posed to citizens in other countries during the fieldwork round of 26-30 March and to South Africans during our first round of 24-27 March 2020. As these fieldwork period overlap, Ipsos is confident in making these comparisons.

Almost nine in every 10 (89%) online South Africans say that they have confidence in the accuracy of information provided by the South African health authorities. Confidence in health authorities is also very high in China (83%), Vietnam and Italy (both at 81%). On the other side of the scale, citizens in Russia (29%), Japan (31%) and Mexico (45%) are least confident in the information they receive from their local health authorities.

Online South Africans also trust the government (77%) and the news on television (85%) as sources of information. Television news enjoys a high level of confidence as a result of its visual impact and immediacy.

Confidence in the information distributed by the government can probably be attributed to the strong leading role played by the president and the cabinet since the coronavirus outbreak. On 15 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the National State of Disaster, instituting a partial travel ban, travel advisories, discouraging public transport, the closing of schools and prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people. On 23 March 2020, the president announced a national lockdown lasting 21 days from 26 March to 16 April 2020.

A view of things to come

Apart from the fact that online South Africans expected the coronavirus to have a profound influence on international sporting events, they also hold a few other strong opinions about the time after (or during) the current crisis.

Online South Africans strongly expect that the coronavirus will leave a negative legacy in terms of travel and tourism and potentially also create civil unrest in high-risk countries.

On the upside, they think that trust in global health authorities will increase (60%) and the crisis will enhance citizens’ willingness and/or likelihood to adhere to national disaster measures (57%).

Looking forward to the testing and distribution of possible vaccines or medicine that can fight the effects of the virus, 56% think that public perceptions of pharmaceutical companies will become more positive. In addition, six in every 10 (60%) think that, in future, trust in global health authorities will improve.

Almost two-thirds of online South Africans (65%) believe that there will be civil unrest and riots in the high-risk countries due to a failure to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Almost seven out of every 10 (69%) online South Africans expect trade disruptions between the country and high-risk countries.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Owen Manda
Director of Public Affairs, Ipsos South Africa
Mobile: +27 82 886 7707

Mari Haris
Director and Political Analyst, Ipsos South Africa
Mobile: +27 82 557 5058

Ezethu Mandlelize
Service Line Manager: Public Affairs, Ipsos South Africa
Mobile: +27 74 617 8023

About the Study

These are the results of an Ipsos South Africa survey conducted from 24 to 27 March 2020 on Ipsos South Africa’s Online platform, with a sample of 1,008 adults aged 18-65.

The global study used to compare with South African results was conducted from 26 to 30 March 2020 and is Wave 6, conducted on the Ipsos Global Advisor online platform among 28,000 adults aged 18-74 in Canada and the United States and 16-74 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam and the United Kingdom.

Globally, at the start of Wave Four of the international study, sample sizes were adjusted from 1,000 to 2,000 per country, with the exception of Vietnam staying at 1,000 interviews, the same as South Africa.

The samples in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US can be taken as representative of these countries’ general adult population over age 16 or 18 (as above) and under the age of 75. The sample in South Africa, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, and Vietnam is more urban, more educated and/or more affluent than the general population and should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more ‘connected’ segment of the population. The data is weighted so that each market’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

In South Africa, Ipsos weighted and projected the results to the online population: those who have internet access at home or on their smartphones.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't know or not stated responses. The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website (

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third-largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide the true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5,000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on Euronext Paris since 1 July 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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Ipsos is an innovative, entrepreneurial, client-focused organisation, providing research services to clients on a global basis. We set ourselves high standards and aim to work collaboratively in partnership with our teams in order to service our clients most effectively.

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