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African Leaders' Scorecard Is a Mixed Bag

African Leaders' Scorecard Is a Mixed Bag

by Magali Rheault

This article is second in a series that highlights key issues in Africa in relation to the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit taking place in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4-6.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Presidents from more than half of the 26 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in 2013 -- many of whom are attending the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit this week -- received job approval ratings higher than 50%. But those ratings varied greatly across countries, from a high of 86% in Mali to a low of 24% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way [NAME] is handling his/her job as president?

Among leaders who received some of the highest approval ratings in 2013, a few have been in office for more than two decades, such as Cameroon's Paul Biya and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni. But several other highly rated presidents, such as Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, had either just been elected to a first term or started on their second term at the time of the survey.

The same diversity in tenure also appears among leaders who received the lowest job performance ratings from their constituents. Two of these presidents, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Chad's Idriss Déby, have been in office for more than two decades, while most of the others were finishing their first or second term at the time of the survey. As such, length of time in office appears to be unrelated to approval ratings.

Income Associated With Presidential Approval

Across all sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in 2013, residents who said they are living comfortably or are getting by on their present income were far more likely than those who said they are less well-off to approve of their presidents' job performance. This suggests that better-off residents may be benefiting, either directly or indirectly, from a certain economic climate nurtured by the leader and his or her policies.

Presidential Job Approval Ratings -- by Key Demographics

Governing for All Generations

However, such tendencies at the regional level mask important differences within individual countries, especially when looking at age. In many countries surveyed, older residents (those aged 45 and older) were typically more likely than young adults (those aged 15 to 24) to approve of the president's job performance. But in other countries, there were no statistical differences across age groups.

Presidential Job Approval Ratings -- by Age

The generational gap is most acute in Kenya and Nigeria. Younger Nigerians are the most likely to approve of the job performance of their president compared with all other age groups. In Kenya, those aged 45 and older are the most likely to approve of the job their president is doing.

Bottom Line

As heads of state convene in Washington this week for the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Gallup's data show sub-Saharan Africans' ratings of their respective leaders vary widely. In some countries, approval ratings seem to reflect residents' high hopes for a more prosperous and peaceful future, while in others, relatively high job performance ratings may signal people's tacit approval as they see no viable alternatives. Yet, in other countries, residents appear unafraid to give relatively low marks to the way their presidents are doing their jobs.

In many countries surveyed, age appears to be related to job performance ratings, with older residents typically more likely than younger ones to give high marks to their respective presidents. Age plays an important role in many issues the continent faces, and young Africans -- those aged 15 to 24 -- are the fastest-growing age group. In fact, they represent 20% of the continent's total population and 60% of its unemployed residents. As such, it will be important for current leaders to address the issues of all of their constituents to ensure the sustainable development of African countries for generations to come.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2013 in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.8 percentage points to ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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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