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Working paper

WP60: Where is Africa going? Views from below: A compendium of trends in public opinion in 12 African countries, 1999-2006

Michael Bratton and Wonbin Cho 1 May 2006 Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Key findings
  • Whether in 2000, 2002 or 2005, in none of our three surveys have more than one-third of Africans interviewed rated their economies positively.
  • Although popular support remains high for the principle of democracy – and autocratic alternatives are always roundly rejected – we find a gradual, but steady decline in demand for democracy.
  • Popular trust in state institutions, including government broadcasters, is quite high and steady; trust in national presidents is actually growing.
  • Even though Africans increasingly worry about unemployment and food insecurity, they report rising levels of electoral and inter-electoral participation.

Where is Africa going? This compendium summarizes both continental trends and divergent country directions. It is based on three rounds of Afrobarometer public opinion surveys, 1999-2006. Among the many original results are the following: Even though Africans increasingly worry about unemployment and food insecurity, they are politically patient; they are not ready to reject democracy simply because it may fail at economic delivery. And even though Africans consistently consider the economic present to be worse then the economic past, they see better times ahead. Hope persists, perhaps propelled in part by the freedoms and opportunities provided by democracy.

Michael Bratton

Michael is a co-founder and board member at Afrobarometer

Wonbin Cho

Wonbin Cho is a researcher.