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Nigerian President Buhari's Approval Drops in Second Year

Nigerian President Buhari's Approval Drops in Second Year

by Michael Smith and Jay Loschky
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Approval of Buhari's leadership tumbles 23 points
  • Nigerians are more confident in government's efforts to fight terrorism
  • More than eight in 10 say government corruption is widespread

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Support for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is declining more than a year after he became the first opposition presidential candidate in Nigerian history to defeat an incumbent. Buhari's approval rating now stands at 44%, down from 67% in June 2015, measured one month after he took office.

Approval of Nigeria's Leader
Do you approve or disapprove of the way the leader/head/president of this country is handling his/her job as leader/head/president?
Approve Disapprove
% %
2016 44 52
2015 67 14
2014* 35 53
*Goodluck Jonathan's final full year in office
Gallup World Poll

Both Nigerians and the international community had high hopes when Buhari became president in May 2015. Buhari replaced Goodluck Jonathan, an unpopular president whose efforts to combat Boko Haram many regarded as feckless and whose administration organizations and public figures alike routinely panned as corrupt. Dogged by those issues, Jonathan's approval ratings were consistently low in his last few years in office. Buhari took office promising to advance the country's fight against corruption and terrorism, but his management of the economy might ultimately determine the success or failure of his presidency.

Buhari's approval ratings have dropped in tandem with Nigerians' outlook on the economy, as a record-high 57% now rate economic conditions in the country as poor. Falling crude prices, sabotage to the oil industry in the Niger Delta and, according to some, the current administration's policies have damaged Nigeria's oil-dependent economy -- which is now officially in a recession. Nigerians have particularly felt the effects of surging prices caused by inflation and the controversial cut of popular fuel subsidies in 2015.

Nigerians See Country's Economy in Decline

Although Buhari has a reputation for tackling corruption, nearly as many Nigerians (85%) see corruption in government as widespread in 2016 as in past years. Though recent anti-corruption initiatives have succeeded in removing nearly 24,000 fake employees from the government payroll and several high-profile corruption trials have captured headlines, Buhari has received criticism for not pursuing corruption cases among members of his own party.

Nigerians Still See Government Corruption as a Problem

While opinions about the economy have worsened and perceptions of corruption have not markedly improved under Buhari, Nigerians view the fight against terrorism more positively. Roughly six in 10 Nigerians (61%) say their government is doing enough to combat terrorism in 2016; this figure is steady from 2015 but is a 35-percentage-point rise from Jonathan's last full year in office.

Government Efforts to Fight Terrorism in Nigeria

The Nigerian military has made major gains in the country's northeast against the terrorist group Boko Haram. Though most Nigerians (84%) still view Boko Haram as a significant threat to the country, this is a significant drop from the 95% who said the same in 2014.

Bottom Line

Buhari's historic election gave rise to a rare moment of hope in Nigerian politics stemming from the expectation that the former general could crush Boko Haram and rein in the country's debilitating corruption. While many Nigerians are more satisfied with the government's performance against terrorism under the Buhari administration, the perception that corruption is widespread in the government remains prevalent.

However, the defining struggle of Buhari's early presidency has become Nigeria's failing economy. For the first time since 1995, Nigeria's GDP looks set to shrink on an annual basis, as Nigerians struggle with the near-doubling of fuel prices and surging costs for almost everything else, including food. Despite Buhari's campaign promises to tackle terror and corruption, Nigerians' unusually poor views of economic conditions suggest his presidency may ultimately be judged by his ability to diversify the economy, control inflation and promote job growth.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted April 9-May 5, 2016, in Nigeria. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe were under a state of emergency due to Boko Haram activity and were excluded for safety and security reasons. These states represent 4.5% of the population. 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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