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Fixing Zimbabwe: What Residents Have to Say

Fixing Zimbabwe: What Residents Have to Say

by Magali Rheault

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of Zimbabwe's presidential election, a Gallup Poll shows that a majority of Zimbabweans say that the country needs a change of leadership to get back on its feet.

With inflation running in the six digits and unemployment affecting four out of five adults, Zimbabweans on March 29 will decide whether to re-elect President Robert Mugabe, who has been ruling the country for almost 30 years. The Gallup Poll was conducted in June-July 2007, when the inflation crisis prompted the government to order businesses to cut prices by half. Of Zimbabweans surveyed in this poll, 63% say a change in the country's leadership is necessary to turn Zimbabwe's economy around, while 30% say the removal of Western sanctions is the best solution. Only 1% of Zimbabweans think the country should continue with current policies to turn the economy around.

Despite the severe deterioration of the national economy over the past decade, Mugabe has managed to remain in power under the ZANU-PF party banner, thanks to patronage politics and strong backing from the military top brass. Overall, 53% of Zimbabweans have confidence in the military (the median score for sub-Saharan Africa is 69%), while 41% of respondents do not have confidence in the military. A majority of both groups still express a desire for change, though Zimbabweans who don't have confidence in the military are far more likely than those who do to be in favor of a change in leadership, 79% versus 52%, respectively. Additionally, only a minority of each group thinks the removal of sanctions imposed by the West is the needed remedy, 20% versus 36%.

Overall, the Gallup findings suggest that in light of their country's deep economic crisis, Zimbabweans are ready for a change, but just 17% of them are confident in the honesty of elections (the regional median score for sub-Saharan Africa is 42%). Zimbabweans surveyed reject the idea that the economy can be fixed by pursuing the same government policies. But perhaps more tellingly, support for a change in leadership exists even among those who do have confidence in the military, the very institution that anchors the ruling party's power and influence.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Zimbabwe, aged 15 and older, in June-July 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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