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Author(s): Bratton, Michael and Eldred Masunungure
Year Published: 2012
Published in Briefing Papers

Voting Intentions in Zimbabwe: A Margin of Terror?


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Afrobarometer Briefing Paper No. 103 
 
 
 
VOTING INTENTIONS IN ZIMBABWE:   
     
A MARGIN OF TERROR? 
 
 
 
by Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure 
 
 
 
August 2012 
 
 
 
Intermittently over the past decade, researchers have taken the political pulse of the general 
public in Zimbabwe.  Public opinion surveys provide information on what ordinary citizens are 
thinking about the issues of the day.  Among the most anticipated survey results are expressed 
party preferences and voting intentions.  At any given time, Zimbabweans are understandably 
eager to know how their fellow citizens would vote if an el ection were held tomorrow. 
 
A debate has arisen, however, about the reliability of survey research under conditions of 
widespread political violence.  Skeptics are right to ask whether citizens feel free enough to offer 
honest answers to sensitive survey questions if, by so doing, they risk losing life, limb or 
property.  In the memorable words of the late Masipula Sithole, a margin of terror can distort 
the profile of public opinion.  
 
Concerns on this score surfaced in reaction to a report entitled Political Change and New Politics 
in Zimbabwe ied byssu Freedom House on August 20, 2012.  The report used survey data 
gathered in June 2012 to indicate that if a presidential election were held tomorrow, Robert 
Mugabe, the candidate of the Zimbabwe National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), would 
garner 31 percent of the votes as compared to 19 percent for Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate of 
the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T).   
 
 This result represented a profound reversal of fortunes for both parties.  It was met by a prompt 
and carefully worded response from MDC-T: 
 
³We note that a lot of people interviewed refused to disclose their political preferences. This is 
obviously for fear of intimidation and the violence they have been subjected to by ZANU-PF and 
its military junta.  The margin of terror fundamentally impugns the conclusion that can be derived 
from this repwowwrt .md(c.co.zw, Aug 22, 2012). 
 
The present briefing paper offers an alternative account of current voting intentions in Zimbabwe.  
1
The analysis rests on data from the latest Afrobarometer survey of July 2012.  
 
                                                      
1
  The Afrobarometer is an independent, non-partisan social science research project organized as an 
African-led international collaboration.  It conducts regular surveys on topics related to democracy and 
governance in more than 30 African countries.  The Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) conducted 
fieldwork for the Round 5 Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe during July 16-30, 2012.  A sample of 2400 
adults of voting age was selected using a stratified, multistage, area design with probability proportional to 
size and randomization at every stage.  Interviewers were carefully trained and closely supervised to 
conduct interviews in the language of the respondents choice.  Respondents were given assurances of 
anonymity and confidentiality and provided informed consent before proceeding with an interview.  
 1 



--------------------------------------- 2

We make four points.  First, using a standard survey question, we show that the preferences of the 
electorate are evenly split between the two main political parties. Second, we justify this result in 
terms of the relative accuracy of our survey methodology. Third, we move beyond mere 
description of voting intentions to test explanations, including the margin of terror.  Finally, 
recognizing that many survey respondents refuse to answer, we estimate how these reticent 
voters might actually vote, thus allowing us to speculatively revise observed survey results by 
taking political fear into account.  
 
Voting Intentions, July 2012 
 
Figure 1 shows how Zimbabweans said they would vote in late July 2012  if a presidential
election were held tomAccororrdoiwng.  to these overt responses, the two major parties are in a 
statistical dead heat:  ZANU-PF would garner 32 percent of the vote and MDC-T would receive 
31 percent.  A survey with 2400 cases contains a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 
percentage points.  Therefore, actual voting intentions lie somewhere within a range of 30-34 
percent for ZANU-PF and 29-33 percent for MDC-T. As a result, either party could have been 
slightly ahead and, if any election had been held in July 2012, the outcome would have been too 
2
close to call.  And a second-round run-off presidential election would have been necessary. 
 
   
 
                                                      
2
 There are other reasons why caution should be used in using Afrobarometer results to predict the outcome 
of elections in Zimbabwe.  The survey question refers to a hypothetical event ± an election held 
³tomorrow±  rather than an actual contest.  The date of the next general election remains highly uncertain 
(but no later than November 2013) and much change can occur in public preferences between now and 
then.  Finally, any election forecast should be based only on persons likely to vote (i.e. excluding 
³abstainers who say they won¶t vote); this adjustment -PF: MDwouldC -Tch ratioang fe romt he ZANU
32:31 to 35:34.  
 
 
 2 

Figure 1: Voting Intentions
Zimbabwe, July 2012
50
40
3231
30
22
20
9
10
3
12
0
ZANU-PFMDC-TMDCOthersDon't KnowRefusedWon't vote
Would vote for this party's presidential candidate
Note: Actual percentage distribution of intended votes should exclude abstainers´ (won¶t vote)



--------------------------------------- 3

   
Figure 1 also confirms that Zimbabwe possesses a two-party system.  No minor political party, 
including MDC (Ncube), ZAPU or Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn, can boast more than one percent 
support from the electorate.  But these parties are relevant to political outcomes in the event of an 
extremely close election, when they might hold a balance of power.  
 
Perhaps the most important result in Figure 1 is that nearly a quarter of all citizens refused to 
answer the voting intentions question.  They often correctly claimed that their vote is a private 
matter, a secret that does not have to be revealed.  The partisan preferences of this reticent 
group are therefore unknown.  Yet such voters are sufficiently numerous (22 percent) that their 
support could potentially swing an election decisively toward one party or another, even to the 
point of negating the need for a second-round runoff.  The unrevealed preferences of reticent 
voters ± especially if engendered by fear of intimidation or violence ± are therefore critical to 
understanding the state of play in partisan politics in Zimbabwe. 
 
A Closing Partisan Gap? 
 
The distribution of voting intentions in July 2012 marks a radical shift from patterns observed in 
earlier surveys.  Figure 2 shows results for the same standard question on voting intentions as 
asked in four Afrobarometer surveys between 2005 and 2012.  The trends reveal a recent 
resurgence in overt support for ZANU-PF and concomitant erosion in citizen willingness to 
openly identify with MDC-T.  Shortly after the formation of Zimbabwes Inclusive Government 
(IG) in February 2009, MDC-T apparently enjoyed a massive edge in expressed popular 
preferences over ZANU-PF (57 percent versus 10 percent).  Since that time the partisan gap 
seems to have closed, at least in terms of what Zimbabweans are willing to confide to a survey 
research team. 
 
 
 
 3 

Figure 2: Voting Intentions by Political Party
Zimbabwe, 2005-2012 
60
57
50
39
40
36
32
3231
29
30
2224
22
20
18
1010
0
OctoberMayOctoberJuly
20052006200720082009201020112012
ZANU-PFMDC-TRefused to answer
Percentage who indicate that they would vote for a candidate of this party if a presidential election 
were held tomorrow´
Source:  Afrobarometer Rounds 3, 4, 4.5 and 5.



--------------------------------------- 4

Two caveats are worth considering about survey results from earlier periods. First, peak levels of 
expressed support for MDC-T were probably inflated by a mood of euphoria (or at least relief) 
following the signing of a power-sharing agreement and the inauguration of a coalition 
government.  The MDC-T faced high popular expectations in 2009 of what could be achieved by 
the IG, hopes that had certainly dissipated by mid-2012.  Second, earlier samples did not always 
penetrate land resettlement schemes and large-scale commercial farms because, for security 
reasons, these areas were deemed pol-go ziotnesica.  Bl noy the time of 2012 surveys, this 
sampling bias was corrected.  Nevertheless, past surveys may have overestimated MDC-T 
support and underestimated ZANU-PF support, especially among persons who had benefited 
from fast-track land redistribution.    
 
We continue wonder, however, whether political fear is infecting results. In May 2009, 
Zimbabweans welcomed the return of relative peace in the aftermath of devastating election 
violence.  But by October 2010, the power-sharing regime had reached a stalemate and the major 
political parties had fallen back into polarized political camps.  ZANU-PF began to push hard for 
early elections.  By July 2012, the party mobilized its apparatus of selective patronage and 
political terror, not only in the countryside, but also in urban townships.  Under these 
circumstances it was risky for citizens to openly align with any particular party, a development 
that may well have had the effect of suppressing free expression.  
 
An Artifact of Method? 
 
Survey researchers can probably agree that the MDC-T¶s fortunes havente rly weanec d.  But to 
what extent?  In July 2012, the Afrobarometer (AB) found substantially higher levels of overt 
support for the MDC-T presidential candidate (31 percent) than did Freedom House (FH) just one 
month earlier (19 percent).  We note that almost all of this difference is attributable to the fact 
that far more people refused to answer the voting intentions question in the FH survey (36 
percent) than in the AB survey (22 percent).  Indeed the proportion of reticent respondents in 
the FH survey was larger than the proportions expressing an intention to vote for either major 
party! 
 
We contend that survey methods may account for some of these observed differences.  Methods 
diverge across AB and FH surveys in at least three ways: 
 
1. Sampling.  The AB sample is consistent with ZimStat¶s official 2011 population projections for 
Zimbabwe.  Relative to this standard, however, FH over-sampled Harare and Manicaland and 
under-sampled Bulawayo and Matabeleland.   Given that the northeast of the country has been the 
epicenter of recent political violence, this bias likely contributes to an increase in fear-induced 
refusals.   
 
2.  Clustering.  The FH sample (N=1198) is half the size of the AB sample (N=2400).  Providing 
it is a random sample, however, this fact alone should not impugn its accuracy.  But the FH 
sample is clustered more tightly (12 interviews in each of 100 sampling areas) than the AB 
sample (8 interviews in each of 300 sampling areas).  Thus, if only a few of the areas sampled by 
FH happened to fall in a given party¶s stronghold, r esults could be distorted.
 
3. Questionnaire.  Researchers know that the content and order of survey questions can affect 
respondent answers.  Compared to the AB questionnaire, the FH questionnaire contained long 
strings of items on political violence before it posed the voting intentions question.  Attention in 
the interview to this disturbing subject may well have gripped respondents with suspicion and 
fear and primed them to take refuge in cautious answers. 
 4 



--------------------------------------- 5

 
4. Interviewers.  An experienced field team from the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) was 
available to the Afrobarometer but not to Freedom House.  Instead, a novice team was mounted 
for the FH survey who had never previously worked for MPOI or never before done a survey 
interview.  MPOI supervisors suspected that fear was prevalent among the interviewers.  To 
protect themselves, interviewers may have lacked confidence in correctly asking sensitive 
questions or provided respondents with safe passage to neutral responses. 
 
As artifacts of faulty methods, the results reported by Freedom House probably over-estimate 
ZANU-PF support and under-estimate MDC-T support.  Because we place more confidence in 
Afrobarometer results, we use them in the analysis that follows.   
 
Explanatory Factors 
 
Research should not stop short at description.  It is instructive to report descriptive statistics (like 
levels of party support) and to observe changes in these indicators over time as we have done 
above.  But the real power of survey methods lies in statistical explanation.  We want to know 
why political parties in Zimbabwe are neck-and-neck in expressed voting intentions and why the 
partisan gap has apparently closed over time.    
 
As a starting point, we pose two simple hypotheses to explain ZANU-PF¶s resurgence and MDC-
T¶s decliThe fne. irst is the positive effect of improved government performance under the IG.  
The second is the negative effect of political fear induced by state-sponsored violence. 
 
1. Government Performance.  On balance, the overall public mood, while gloomier than in 2009, 
is still somewhat upbeat.  Slightly more people think the country is moving in the right 
direction (48 percent) rather than the wrong direcrtlyi, mon (ore pe43 ople percent).  Simila
think that, over the previous year, the country¶s economic condition became better (35 percent) 
rather than worse (23 percent).  And considerably more people expect the country¶s economic 
condition over the next year to improve (52 percent) rather than decline (20 percent).   
 
Turning to the perceived performance of the IG, the record is more mixed.  For example, 
Zimbabweans are split right down the middle on whether the coalition government has managed 
the economy well (49 per barcentdly) o (50 per cent).  
 
Much depends on the policy sector.  People give the government high marks for addressing 
educational needs (71 percent say they are handling this task well) and improving basic health 
services (69 percent).  But they give it low marks on creating jobs (12 percent say well), 
providing a reliable supply of electricity (14 percent), and fighting corruption (15 percent).  And, 
while a large minority (41 percent) credits the IG with resolving political violence, a larger 
majority (56 percent) thinks it has done ba dly on this score.
 
The question is: which political party gets credit or blame for perceived government 
performance?  Several proxy indicators are available.  First, when asked how much they trust 
political parties after the Inclusive Government, 46 percent of the pu- blic say they trust ZANU
PF somewhat or a lot, while exactl-Ty ( hal50 perf cetnrt)ust.  Sec MDond,C when asked to 
evaluate the job performance of the two top political leaders, 58 percent approve of the work 
done over the previous year by President Mugabe compared to 66 percent for Prime Minister 
Tsvangirai.  
 
 5 



--------------------------------------- 6

Thus, both parties enjoy a measure of institutional trust and both leaders are appraised positively 
for performance in office.  These results in July 2012 stand in stark contrast to earlier 
Afrobarometer surveys in which Tsvangirai benefited from wide margins of approval over 
Mugabe (82 versus 24 percent in May 2009).  In welcoming the IG¶s delivery of economic 
stability and relative peace (at least as compared to 2008), the general public now seems to grant 
almost as much credit to ZANU-PF as to MDC-T.  We test this hypothesis below. 
 
Table 1 provides insight into the divergent moods of each party¶s supporters with regard to 
government performance.   ZANU-PF loyalists are more likely to say the country is headed in the 
right direction (63 versus 40 percent) and that the economy is performing well (65 versus 38 
percent).  ZANU-PF supporters even take pleasure in improved education services. Thus ZANU-
PF supporters express consistent satisfaction with the IG¶s economic and social policies and, 
accordingly, stand ready to reward their favored party at the polls.  At the same time, MDC-T 
supporters ± possibly because they once harbored high expectations ± are disappointed with what 
the IG has achieved and seemingly blame their party for not having achieved more.   
 
 
 
 
2. Political Fear.  Zimbabweans remain deeply concerned about political violence.  Fully 88 
percent think that multiparty competition often or always leads to violent conflict.  This 
figure represents an increase since 2009 (80 percent) and is far higher than any other country in 
the Afrobarometer, including even Nigeria (74 percent) and Kenya (76 percent).   
 
In addition, some 63 percent of Zimbabweans say that, during election campaigns, they 
personally fear becoming a victim of political intimidation or violence. They also worry about 
freedom of expression.  Fully 89 percent asoftsener ort that a lpewayoplse  ha³ve to be careful 
of what they say about politics.  Again, this is the highest rate ever recorded by the AB in 
Zimbabwe or anywhere else in Africa.  And some 61 percent consider that the government  
often or always silencioen pas opportiessi tor their supp orters.
 6 

acententions by Perceived Government PerformnTable 1: Voting I
Zimbabwe July 2012
Would vote Would vote Refused to 
for for      answer/         
ZANU-PFMDC-TDont know
Country is going in the right direction 63%40%44%
Government is managing the economy 65%38%43%
well
Government is addressing educational 79%63%71%
needs well
Percentage of survey respondents who agree with the above statements



--------------------------------------- 7

 
Furthermore, survey respondents may censor themselves in an interview situation.  Despite 
MPOI¶s best efforts to introduce its interviewers as independent observers, almost half of the 
sample (44 percent) sees the survey as sponsored by a governmental agency associated with 
Zimbabwes pa-stratte, ay nd therefore potentially with ZANU-PF.  Only slightly more 
respondents (47 percent) attribute sponsorship to a non-governmental or non-political entity.  
Thus, it is necessary to explore whether these (mis-) perceptions systematically shape expressed 
voting intentions. 
 
If fear is a factor, then voting intention results (see Figure 1) probably represent a comparison 
between overt (meaning openly declared) ZANU-PF support and core (meaning deeply 
committed) MDC-T support. These days, we suggest that only core MDC-T supporters remain 
willing to express overt support for their party. Instead, the incentives of political fear drive the 
party¶s more passive followerr s trute pro heferide encets, heat mi inimum by refusing to answer a 
sensitive voting question. At the same time, would-be voters have every incentive to display 
political fealty to ZANU-PF, either by expressing sincere support for the party or by falsely 
claiming a political allegiance that they do not genuinely feel. 
 
The effects of these incentives are reflected in Table 2, which shows an uneven distribution of 
political fear among the supporters of different political parties.  More than three quarters (78 
percent) of persons overtly aligned with MDC-T say they fear intimidation or violence during 
election campaigns compared to fewer than half (47 percent) of declared ZANU-PF supporters.  
It is also striking that more than twice as many MDC-T than ZANU-PF loyalists consider that 
opposition parties and their supporters are often or always silenced by government (81 versus 
37 percent).  We fully expect that this gulf in fear-induced political vulnerability will affect overt 
expressions of partisan support, a hypothesis that we now test.  
 
 
 7 

eTable 2: Voting Intentions by Political Far
Zimbabwe July 2012
Would vote Would vote Refused to 
for      for      answer/         
ZANU-PFMDC-TDont know
Fear intimidation or violence during 47%78%66%
elections
Think that opposition parties are silenced 37%81%66%
by government
Perceive survey as sponsored by a 58%38%38%
government agency
Percentage of survey respondents who express the above sentiments



--------------------------------------- 8

 
Explaining Voting Intentions 
 
So, what determines an individual¶s stated intention to vote for a particular party?  Following a 
political science convention, we examine intentions to vote for the party of the incumbent 
president, in this case ZANU-PF.  Because the object of explanation is a binary choice (vote for 
Mugabe¶s party or not), the appropriate method is logist ic regression (see Table 3). 
 
In Table 3, six explanatory factors are clustered into two groups:  government performance and 
political fear.  All indicators are popular perceptions as measured in the Afrobarometer Round 5 
survey of July 2012. 
 
It turns out that all the selected indicators are statistically significant forecasts of a vote for 
ZANU-PF. In other words, both government performance and political fear are at work in 
shaping voting intentions in Zimbabwe.  
 
The positive signs on the performance indicators strongly suggest that ZANU-PF is gaining 
electoral advantage from its association with the IG. Correctly or not, some voters apparently 
attribute the country¶s right direction, the economy¶s good management, and improved 
delivery of educational services to ZANU-PF. They do so even though the MDC-T has shared the 
leadership of the coalition government and headed the Ministries responsible for economic 
management and education.  At minimum, this result suggests that the MDC-T has failed to get 
out a message, or to convince diehard supporters of the old regime, of its own contributions to 
better governance under the IG. 
    
 
 
     
 8 

Table 3: Predicted Probability of a Vote for ZANU-PF
Zimbabwe, July 2012
B Statistical Marginal 
Coefficient SignificanceEffects
GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE
Country Right Direction.571.000***+12%
Economy Well Managed.265.001**+17%
Education Services Improved.213.007**+13%
POLITICAL FEAR
Fear of Election Violence-.447.000***-29%
Opposition Seen as Silenced-.718.000***-46%
Government Seen as Survey Sponsor.924.000***+20%
Constant.525.153
The B column shows logistic regression coefficients.  All predictor variables are statistically significant.
The Marginal Effects column shows the predicted probability that survey respondents would vote for ZANU-PF 



--------------------------------------- 9

 When it comes to political fear, we uncover a couple of anomalies.  First, if ZANU-PF were 
successful in intimidating reluctant voters to express support, then we would expect a statistically 
positive relationship (a plus sign) between an individual¶s expressions of fear and his stated 
intentions to vote for the incumbent president¶s party.  But we do not.  The relationship between a 
persons expectofat viictons imization by violence during election campaigns is negatively (a 
minus sign) related to an intended vote for ZANU-PF.  In other words, even though people admit 
that they are politically fearful, they still decline to tell an interviewer that they will support the 
former ruling party.  In short, they feel fear but they are able (courageously) to overcome it. 
 
Second, the perception that the government silences opponents also yields a negative statistical 
effect on voting for ZANU-PF.  In other words, the more that a voter perceives the suppression of 
political speech, the less likely she will wish to return ZANU-PF to power.  The question 
becomes whether perceiving repression is the same as feeling political fear.  To be sure, the 
silencing of opposition does seem to induce people to be careful when talking about politics (r 
=.312***).  But, once again, it does not persuade them to change their stated voting intentions.   
 
The only way that political fear has the predicted positive sign is when people perceive 
government sponsorship of the survey.  If they fear such government surveillance, they are more 
likely to express a voting intention for ZANU-PF.  This result can be interpreted as a 
manifestation of protective self-censorship.   
 
Moreover, the last column of Table 3 indicates that this form of fear has larger effects on voting 
intentions than any single aspect of government performance.  For example, a person who thinks 
the country is moving in the right direction is 12 percentage points more likely to come out 
openly for ZANU-PF.  But a respondent who fears government surveillance is 20 percentage 
points more likely to do so.  In other words, the fear factor is substantively large enough to 
seriously distort, not only survey results, but potentially an actual election.   
 
If we are interested in rooting out the effects of political fear ± in other words, the margin of 
terror ± then we need to control for (mis-)perceptions of government survey sponsorship.  The 
next section attempts this task. 
 
How Will Reticents V ote?
One of the persistent mysteries about public opinion in Zimbabwe is the political allegiance of 
persons who refuse to divulge their voting intentions.  In a democracy, citizens are entirely at 
liberty to hold their vote secret.  For one reason or another, including most probably fear, they do 
not wish to reveal their partisan preferences.  Secretive voters are a distinct group and should not 
be confused with those who say they will not vote ("abstainers") and those who have not made up 
their minds who to vote for (the "undecided").  It would be very useful if we could estimate the 
latent partisanship of this  reticent group.
 
To do so, we propose a method to discern how much the overt vote is inflated by fearful 
perceptions of government sponsorship.  We already know that perceived government 
sponsorship inclines voters to declare allegiance to ZANU-PF.  Whereas 32 percent do so in the 
sample as a whole, 43 percent do so if they think the government is behind the survey (See Table 
4).  By contrast, if respondents think that a non-government agency is behind the survey, they 
tend to lean towards MDC-T (38 percent versus 31 percent in the sample as a whole). 
 Let us assume that the "true" breakdown of partisan sentiments is unencumbered by fear of 
government sponsorship.  If so, then the distribution of intended votes in the column headed "see 
 9 



--------------------------------------- 10

non-government sponsor" in Table 4 is the one that comes closest to reality.  In other words, in a 
perfect world where no citizen feared government sponsorship of surveys, 22 percent would opt 
for ZANU-PF, 38 percent for MDC-T, and 5 percent for other parties. 
But the denominator for these percentage calculations includes "abstainers" and the "undecided."  
We take their opinions at face value, that is, that they mean what they say (and that they are not 
retreating into wont vote and dont know as alter  Fonrat the pue frorposems of of  reticence).
this analysis, however, we make the conservative decision to exclude these cases.  This correction 
allows us to consider only those respondents who express an overt partisan preference (N=734).  
Using raw figures for the ratio of MDC-T:ZANU-PF:other parties we can see that 429:248:57 
produces the following corrected partisan breakdown: 
58 percent for MDC-T:                                                                                                                
34 percent for ZANU-PF:                                                                                                             
8 percent for other parties 
 
   
Applying this ratio to the 523 persons in the "reticent" group, we infer that it produces an 
additional 303 intended (but secretive) votes for MDC-T, 178 for ZANU-PF, and 42 for other 
parties.  Adding these "unrevealed" votes to overt voting intentions we get the following: 
  MDC-T   742 + 303 = 1045    49 percent 
   ZANU-PF  774 + 178 = 952   45 percent 
   Others    100 + 42 = 142       7 percent 
 10 

arlerceve Government Survey Sponsor by Political PtyTabe 4: Pid
Zimbabwe July 2012
See See Non-Total
Government Government 
SponsorSponsor
ZANU-PF447248775
(43%)(22%)(32%)
MDC-T259429741
(25%)(38%)(31%)
Other Parties3957100
(4%)(5%)(4%)
Percentage of survey respondents who report the above perceptions. 
Column totals to not add to 100 percent because the perceptions of  reticent, abstainer´ and undecided 
groups are not shown. Row totals include figurs´ (esnot for s hodonwn).t know



--------------------------------------- 11

 
   
This simulated result (see Figure 3) is interesting in several ways: 
 
1. MDC-T moves slightly ahead of ZANU-PF in terms of voting intentions in July 2012. 
2. Partisan support is still quite evenly balanced but now beyond the survey's margin of sampling 
error.                                                                                                                                     
3. By excluding "abstainers" (9 percent), the result correctly refers only to those who actually 
plan to vote.  But it still excludes voters who might return from the diaspora to cast a ballot. 
4. Figure 3 almost replicates the officially reported results of the first round of the last 
presidential election in March 2008 (Tsvangirai 48 percent, Mugabe 43 percent). 
5.  The analysis implies that, if voting intentions do not change, Zimbabwe can expect another 
close election in 2013. 
 11 

Figure 3: Adjusted Voting Intentions of Intended Voters 
Including the Estimated Vote of the "Reticent"
Zimbabwe, July 2012
49
4550
40
30
20
7
10
0
ZANU-PFMDC-TOther Parties
Would vote for this party's presidential candidate
3HUFHQWDJHFDOFXODWLRQVH[FOXGHWKH³XQGHFLGHG´GRQ¶WNQRZDQG³DEVWDLQHUV´ZRQ¶WYRWH



--------------------------------------- 12

Conclusions 
1.  In terms of overt (declared) voting intentions in July 2012, the two major parties in Zimbabwe 
are in a statistical dead heat.   
2.  Zimbabwean voters make voting choices on the basis of both the positive achievements of the 
Inclusive Government and the negative sanctions of intimidation and violence.   
 
3. While ZANU-PF seems to derive more benefit from recent government performance than it 
probably deserves, MDC-T seems to derive less.  One reason may be that the former has paid 
more attention to grassroots organization and mass communications than the latter.  While 
ZANU-PF has invested resources to rebuild its party machine and mobilize its political base, 
MDC-T has relied too heavily on a strategy of expecting political credit for improved service 
delivery. 
 
4.  A large proportion of voters, however, are reticent to express a partisan preference.  Political 
fear, while pervasive, may be less effective than its purveyors might wish since many would-be 
voters in Zimbabwe seem able to overcome it. 
 
5.  That being said, fear of government sponsorship of social surveys is a major reason why some 
people say they support ZANU-PF when they do not.  Adding estimates for reticent voters 
increases the proportion of citizens intending to vote for MDC-T.   
 
7.  But this adjustment does not give any party a decisive edge.  Any future election in Zimbabwe 
remains too close to call.  No political party in Zimbabwe can afford to be complacent about an 
easy electoral victory.  The Afrobarometer survey of popular voting intentions in July 2012 
strongly suggests that, at present, neither ZANU-PF nor MDC-T could secure the presidency 
without a second-round run-off election.    
 
 
About the Afrobarometer 
 
The Afrobarometer is a collaborative survey research project conducted by a network of social 
scientists from more than 30 African countries.  The Center for Democratic Development (CDD-
Ghana) provides overall project direction.  At the sub-regional level, the following Core Partners 
coordinate survey and other activities: the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), the 
Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IREEP) in Benin, and the Institute for 
Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.   Michigan State University and 
the University of Cape Town provide analytic and technical support services.  The Afrobarometer 
Network gratefully acknowledges generous contributions from the UK Department for 
International Development (DfID), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the 
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, and the Mo 
Ibrahim Foundation.  Grants from these donors support research, capacity building and outreach 
activities in Afrobarometer Rounds 5 and 6, 2010-15.  For more information, see: 
www.afrobarometer.org 
 
 
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