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Zimbabweans will go to the polls in presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections on July 30, 2018. These elections are the first test of the popular will since the dramatic military intervention of November 2017 that forced an end to the 37-year reign of Robert Mugabe.

To assess the prevailing public mood, including voting intentions, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Afrobarometer’s core partner for Southern Africa, commissioned a baseline pre-election survey. Fieldwork and public dissemination of results were conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, Afrobarometer’s national partner in Zimbabwe. As a support unit, Afrobarometer provided technical assistance.

The survey interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,400 Zimbabweans between April 28 and May 12, 2018, that is, some three months before the election. A shorter final pre-election survey will follow in late June/early July with results planned for release shortly before voting day (July 30).

This policy paper selects the most salient results from the survey to address the following questions:

▪ What explains the seemingly contradictory public mood among Zimbabweans, who express both economic pessimism and cautious political hope?

▪ What is the election about? What are the main issues driving different sorts of voters – young and old, rural and urban – to the polls?

▪ To what extent will large numbers of young (including first-time) voters affect the nature of the campaign and the outcome of the election? Or do factors other than age matter more?

▪ As of May 2018, what was the state of the presidential race between incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANU-PF and main challenger Nelson Chamisa of MDC-T?

▪ How do perceptions about who sponsored the survey – a governmental or nongovernmental agency – affect respondents’ willingness to report a partisan voting intention?  ▪ What can we surmise about how the “reticents” (that is, those who refuse to reveal a partisan preference) might actually vote?

▪ Among other unresolved issues, to what extent do citizens worry about a lack of ballot secrecy, bias in the mass media, and the possible announcement of incorrect election results?

▪ In the short time remaining before the election, what can advocates of free and fair elections, including in the international community, do about these unresolved issues?

Michael Bratton

Michael is a co-founder and board member at Afrobarometer

Eldred Masunungure

Eldred V. Masunungure is the national investigator for Zimbabwe.