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In the News: Approval of South Africa's Zuma at All-Time Low

In the News: Approval of South Africa's Zuma at All-Time Low

by Jay Loschky and Julie Ray

Scandal-plagued South African President Jacob Zuma could step down within days, according to officials within the country's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Zuma is facing increasing pressure to resign in the wake of mounting corruption allegations and an investigation into whether he let a powerful family influence his government.

Zuma has battled corruption scandals throughout his almost nine years in office, but the ANC has additional incentive to jettison Zuma, given his increasing unpopularity in the country ahead of national elections in 2019.

A review of key World Poll data throughout Zuma's tenure in office shows:

Zuma's job approval is at an all-time low. Highly popular when he first took office, South Africans have soured on Zuma in the past five years, but particularly in the past two. The 25% in 2017 who approved of Zuma's job performance as president is a new low.

Job Approval of President Jacob Zuma

Though South Africans are among the least likely in sub-Saharan Africa to have confidence in their national government (42% in 2017), they notably lend Zuma even less support (25%). The 17-percentage-point gap between South Africans' confidence in the government at large and their approval of their president suggests that many South Africans are still loyal to the ANC despite their low opinions of Zuma.

South Africa (along with Kenya) leads all of sub-Saharan Africa in perceptions that government corruption is widespread. The percentage of South Africans who say government corruption is widespread has always been high since Gallup started polling there in 2006, but while numbers elsewhere across the region have declined, figures in South Africa have remained steady. The 85% of South Africans in 2017 who perceive corruption as widespread in their government is significantly higher than the median of 69% across the region.

Corruption Widespread in Government in South Africa

Takeaway: If Zuma does not step down soon, he will face another no-confidence vote on Feb. 22. But while he has narrowly survived many such votes in the past, this time his fate is not as certain. Zuma's increasing unpopularity among South Africans may have hurt the ANC in local elections in 2016, and this may not be a risk some in the party will be willing to take in 2019.


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