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President Zuma's approval levels drop from 58% to 43% in the first quarter of 2010

President Jacob Zuma's 100-day approval rating was 57%. This dropped to 53% in September but regained this ground in November to end 2009 on 58%. However, his figures in February this year showed a drop to 43%. This is according to a survey released by TNS Research Surveys, South Africa's leading marketing and social insights company, which has been tracking approval levels of the incumbent President for many years, including our new president, President Jacob Zuma. The four studies were each conducted amongst a sample of 2 000 SA adults from the seven major metropolitan areas of South Africa, interviewing them face-to-face in their homes, with a margin of error of under 2.5% in June, September and November.

President Zuma's approval levels drops to its pre-election level
The drop to 43% in the President's approval level in metropolitan areas in February 2010 represents a return to levels seen before the 2009 election. From the election to the end of 2009, his levels approval levels were in the 50s, ending the year on a high of 58%.

By comparison, former President Mbeki's approval ratings were in the mid to low 30s from 1999 to 2002, only beginning to rise in 2003 before hitting a high of 66% in both 2004 and 2005. He ended his term on a rating of 34%.

This represents a firm negative trend

The latest study shows that the proportion of fence-sitters has dropped to 17% - still quite high, but a decline from the low 30s and high 20s seen in 2009. This means that this drop in approval is a real swing from positive to negative and not a function of fence-sitters making up their minds as in November 2009. This also means that the net sentiment (approve minus disapprove) is down dramatically since 2009.

President Zuma's approval levels drop from 58% to 43% in the first quarter of 2010

This is against a background of the various issues that have surrounded his personal life - the multiple wives and the revelations of his love child - and the continuing stalemate in Zimbabwe and growing service delivery protests. Indeed, it is important to note that the interviewing for this study was conducted in the week of the revelations of his love child and his subsequent apology to the nation.

Who is more or less positive?

Unfortunately, political views in South Africa tend to have a strong correlation with race. This is best illustrated in the following table:

President Zuma's approval levels drop from 58% to 43% in the first quarter of 2010
  • For blacks, after a strong rise in approval levels from the elections onwards, they are now at the poorest since November 2008.
  • For whites, there was a remarkable positive shift beginning over the election period and continuing into September - but sentiment declined in November. However, sentiment has now moved to the same levels seen over the election period.
  • For coloureds, initially sentiment moved from the negative into a “don't know” area - but this has now reverted back to a negative stance.

  • For Indians/Asians, the score is at its most negative.

Differences by area
There are usually strong regional differences in such ratings. These are outlined below (figures in brackets represent November 2009 - there are universal declines):

  • Gauteng - 47% (down from 64%)
    • Johannesburg and environs - 50% (64%)
      • Johannesburg excluding Soweto - 48% (61%)
      • Soweto - 50% (70%)
      • East Rand - 54% (67%) (highest)
      • West Rand - 47% (61%)
      • Vaal Triangle and South Rand - 49% (60%)
    • Pretoria - 35% (61%)

  • Cape Town - 23% (35%) (lowest)
  • Durban - 49% (61%)
  • Eastern Cape - 39% (53%)

    • Port Elizabeth - 36% (44%)
    • East London - 47% (71%)

  • Bloemfontein 48% (83%)

Other notable differences
Partly in line also with race, younger people are more positive about the President (45% of those under 34 years approve of the way the President is doing his job (down from 63% in November)), this dropping to 32% (down from 44%) for those aged 50 years and more.

Our take out

President Zuma's approval levels, as measured in the week of February when all the revelations about his personal life emerged, as well as his third wedding, are at their lowest since he took office and stand at pre-election levels. This decline is across the board, in all metro demographics. However, at 58%, the black metro population shows the highest approval levels (down from the 75% of June 2009, though).

Technical note

All the studies were conducted amongst 2 000 adults (1260 blacks, 385 whites, 240 coloureds and 115 Indians/Asians) in the seven major metropolitan areas: it has a margin of error of under 2.5% for the results found for the total sample. The studies were conducted by TNS Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd as part of their ongoing research into current social and political issues and were funded by TNS Research Surveys. For more details, please contact Neil Higgs on 011-778-7500 or 082-376-6312.

About TNS

TNS, who recently merged with Research International, is the world's largest custom research agency delivering actionable insights and research-based business advice to its clients so they can make more effective business decisions. TNS offers comprehensive industry knowledge within the Consumer, Technology, Finance, Automotive and Political & Social sectors, supported by a unique product offering that stretches across the entire range of marketing and business issues, specialising in product development & innovation, brand & communication, stakeholder management, retail & shopper, and qualitative research. Delivering best-in-class service across more than 70 countries, TNS is part of Kantar, the world's largest research, insight and consultancy network. Please visit for more information.

About Kantar

Kantar is one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy networks. By uniting the diverse talents of its 13 specialist companies, the group aims to become the pre-eminent provider of compelling and inspirational insights for the global business community. Its 26,500 employees work across 95 countries and across the whole spectrum of research and consultancy disciplines, enabling the group to offer clients business insights at each and every point of the consumer cycle. The group's services are employed by over half of the Fortune Top 500 companies. For further information, please visit us at

Kantar is the world's leading evidence-based insights and consulting company. We have a complete, unique and rounded understanding of how people think, feel and act; globally and locally in over 90 markets. By combining the deep expertise of our people, our data resources and benchmarks, our innovative analytics and technology we help our clients understand people and inspire growth.
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