WP42: The power of propaganda: Public opinion in Zimbabwe, 2004

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Working papers
2004
42
Chikwanha, Annie, Tulani Sithole and Michael Bratton

This report probes the public mood in Zimbabwe in mid-2004, documents changes in public opinion since 1999, and compares Zimbabwe to other African countries. The results are situated in the context of the country's current economic and political crises. On the economy, we find that Zimbabweans feel economically deprived and report more persistent hunger than in any other country surveyed. On the political front, Zimbabweans are losing faith in democracy and increasing numbers acquiesce to the idea of single-party rule. Despite economic decline, President Robert Mugabe's popularity has risen since 1999. How does one explain this paradox? First, some people have benefited from ZANU-PF patronage. Second, younger people and rural dwellers are afraid to express political preferences. But, third, the most important factor is political propaganda. People who trust the official government media are very much more likely to give the president a positive rating.