Skip to content
Working paper

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

Download (English)
Key findings
  • Zimbabweans feel economically deprived: more than half of all adults think that current living conditions are bad; and present generations think they are materially worse off than their parents.
  • * Zimbabweans are losing faith in democracy. Expressed support for this form of government is down from two-thirds of citizens in 1999 to less than one half in 2004.
  • Public opinion in Zimbabwe is therefore a paradox. While the economy has shrunk and hunger has become widespread, political support for the incumbent has apparently increased. The report ends by offering an explanation of this puzzle.

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.

Annie Chikwanha-Dzenga

Annie Barbra Chikwanha-Dzenga is a lecturer in the Department of Politics and Administrative Studies in the University of Zimbabwe

Tulani Sithole

Tulani SithoSenior Researcherle is a at the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) in Zimbabwe

Michael Bratton

Michael is a co-founder and board member at Afrobarometer