DA secret poll counters Ipsos

The Democratic Alliance is losing supporters, in part because of internal battles, including over Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Party members clashed outside the high court when De Lille appeared there in May. Photo: David Harrison

The Democratic Alliance is losing supporters, in part because of internal battles, including over Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Party members clashed outside the high court when De Lille appeared there in May. Photo: David Harrison

The Democratic Alliance’s own election poll indicates the party has lost significant support in the Western Cape but that it will retain the province in the 2019 general elections — in sharp contrast to market research company Ipsos’s latest research results.

The DA’s internal poll results suggests the DA will win 52% of the vote in the province, while the ANC will get 34% and the Economic Freedom Fighters 6%.

In the 2014 general election, the DA got 59% of the vote in the Western Cape, while the ANC had 33%.

This suggests that the DA has lost 7% of its support since 2014, while the ANC has made a 1% gain.

The DA poll, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, was conducted between June 29 and July  11, and was based on a sample size of 740 Western Cape registered voters aged 18 and older. A team of experts within the DA is responsible for regularly assessing support for the party.

This week, the DA dismissed results released by Ipsos, which said the party would win only 28% of the Western Cape vote, putting it neck-and-neck with the ANC, whose support was put at 26% by Ipsos.

Ipsos also said that nationally the DA has just 13% of the vote, while the ANC is comfortably in the lead with 60%.

But DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela said Ipsos was “taking it a little too far” by claiming the DA and the ANC would be on par in the Western Cape elections.

But he did acknowledge that there were problems in the party that would pose a risk to its support base next year if left unaddressed. One of the issues, he said, was the DA’s internal battles with its own mayors — Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille and Knysna mayor Mark Willemse.

“The biggest enemy of the DA is the DA itself. With all due respect to the opposition parties in the Western Cape … even during times when we are facing challenges, I don’t think we have seen any opposition that has come out to challenge the DA,” Madikizela said.

“I think the biggest threat in these elections for us is apathy from our own voters and not necessarily from an opposition party.”

Madikizela said the DA knew there was voter unhappiness “because of the internal challenges in the DA. We just need to sort our issues out and convince [voters] to believe in the DA again.

“We are still a strong brand that people believe in.”

ANC Western Cape campaign leader Ebrahim Rasool has said that the party remains hopeful it will do well in the province but that the DA can still retain its support.

“I must put out a rider that the ability of the DA to recover is stronger than the ability of the ANC to surge ahead,” he said.

Rasool and ANC national elections head Fikile Mbalula said though the party was taking Ipsos’s research seriously, the ANC could not be complacent. Rasool said that one of the strategies the ANC was employing in the Western Cape was to remain disciplined in its reaction to the DA’s “implosion” and to win the trust of black and white voters, as well as win back coloured voters who had previously voted for the ANC.

“We want to allow President [Cyril] Ramaphosa to consolidate on his leadership and to let the DA’s infighting be. We don’t want to react by being over joyous or [by] trying to help it along,” Rasool said.

Speculation attributes the DA’s loss of support in the Western Cape to its mismanagement of the drought crisis, pricey water tariffs for Cape Town residents and its continued battles with its mayors.

But Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who is fighting her party both in court and in the city council, said she can’t say that her support in the Western Cape is enough to cause a backlash for the DA in the ballot box.

“As far as my case is concerned, I turned to the courts for fairness and justice, but I don’t want to pretend that I’m so important,” De Lille said.

Willemse faces disciplinary action from the party, but believes the DA should win in 2019.

“I haven’t seen the [Ipsos] results yet,” Willemse said this week. “Look, there is a perception that the DA is losing support because of what is happening in Cape Town and in other places, so whether that’s true or not, unless you canvass a wide range you are never going to know if that is the fact or not.’’

Referring to his own troubles he said: “At this stage I’m a loyal DA member. I’ve never said anything to the contrary. I remain a loyal DA member and I will back the party to the hilt.”

Ipsos’s latest research has come under scrutiny, with questions raised about the methodology it used. Ipsos’s poll sampled 3 738 people aged 15 years and older for their national results.

In the Western Cape, Ipsos’s sample size was 592 people, according to research manager Antonia Squara. This included 101 people who refused to say who they would vote for, 50 people who did not know who they would vote for and 53 people who said they would not vote.

Squara said that Ipsos had “assumed” that those aged 15 years and older would have two birthdays before the 2019 elections, thereby making them eligible to register to vote, but it had not directly asked the participants whether they would be eligible by the time of the 2019 election.

Squara said that Ipsos had also assumed that “Ramaphoria” and the DA Western Cape’s in-fighting were behind the loss of support. Ipsos researchers had not asked those surveyed directly for the reason behind their decisions.

“The results are meant to be interpreted as a thermometer of the present situation on the ground,” Squara said. “We didn’t ask specifically what led to the decline [in the DA support] but we made an assumption based on what the public had been exposed to in the media,” Squara said.

Rajen Govender, a research and methodology specialist in the sociology department at the University of Cape Town, said that Ipsos’s sample of 592 people in the Western Cape was “reasonably good”.

What made the difference between Ipsos’s research and the DA’s, Govender said, is that the DA had canvassed 740 registered voters, while Ipsos included those who are not yet registered in its survey. “You generally get more reliable results by talking to those who are already registered to vote, because those people have a more serious intention to actually vote, as opposed to looking at somebody who may be eligible to vote, but who may not even think about it.”

The DA has already reportedly instructed its members to ignore the Ipsos poll.

The party’s chief strategist, Jonathan Moakes, believes the party is on track to increase its support in the Northern Cape and Gauteng.

But the party has made it clear that the poll it cares most about is the one in 2019. — Additional reporting by Dineo Bendile

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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