15 May 2012

Gallup Finds High Approval of Africa's Leaders

Gallup shares the results of a new poll measuring the approval of Africa's leaders in their home countries. Almost all have positive approval ratings. Of those at the bottom, Wade, Mutharika and Banda are now out of office. The findings in some countries are not likely indicative of true sentiments. Obama and Cameron sitting at around 50%, plus the more democratic African nations moving closer to the same middle range may indicate that the extreme highs are hiding the truth. One interesting thing is the high measured approval rating of the now disposed Amadou Toure of Mali.

Further questions from Gallup point towards a connection between approval rating with local economies and confidence in institutions. Also, it seems that heads of state get higher approval as compared to collective leadership of the nation.

The poll concludes:
Although today more African leaders come to office via the ballot box, many remain in power for decades -- or their son becomes the top executive at his father's death. Still, the Gallup results show that job performance approval can be relatively high -- or low -- regardless of the leader's time in office. This suggests that approval ratings of the individual's performance are not strictly related to tenure. 
Further, the findings suggest that while local economic conditions do matter, other factors may be more significant drivers of leaders' ratings, although a deteriorating economic environment can worsen residents' assessments of their political leader's performance. Governance issues, such as the honesty of elections and the judicial system, seem to matter much more in the eyes of most Africans. Other factors, such as political apathy, may play a role as many may not be interested in political affairs and tacitly approve of their leader's performance. 
The recent change of the guard in Senegal -- where the former president's approval stood at 30% -- and the deposition of Mali's president a few weeks before the end of his second term sends a mixed message about political alternation in the region. In some countries, Africans' voices come through loud and clear at the ballot box. In others, heeding the will of the people is still a work in progress.

The fact that there is not a strong relation between tenure and approval rating is a bit surprising to me. I would have assumed leaders who maintained more power would artificially inflate their approval ratings through intimidation. That appears it may not be the case in all instances.

Now I will leave it to the commentators do discuss the finer points of the survey findings.

Update: As requested by Simon. Here is data on press freedom in Africa from this year's press freedom Index. Sadly, I had a hard time separating the pure Africa data, but this map helps out a bit.

Here are the rankings and raw data.