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17 December 2009

Core support for COPE (Congress of the People) has slumped since the national election in April 2009 and currently stands at 2,2%. However, potential still exists and a further one in every ten eligible voters (8%) say that they would perhaps vote for this party.
COPE was formed a year ago on 16 December 2008. At that stage it was reported in an Ipsos Markinor press release (dated 15 December 2008) that nearly two in every ten likely voters (16%)(i) strongly agreed or agreed that there was no political party representing their views. Three in every ten (28%) of likely voters said it would enhance democracy if a part of the ANC broke away and formed a new political party that could be an efficient opposition to the ruling ANC.
The press release further stated that: Looking at these findings there is definitely space for a new political party, as a sizable proportion of likely voters are not happy with the current political parties. COPE can stake its claim here, provided its policies appeal to voters and it can sell the idea that another political party will lead to more checks and balances in the political landscape and promote good governance in the country.
However, the emergence of COPE has not been without controversy and several leadership struggles crippled the party, both before and after the general election in April 2009.
This had a very negative effect on COPEs chances in the national election. In March 2009, possible support for the party was measured at 8,9% by Ipsos Markinor.
Both the ANC and DA election campaigns were brilliantly run in the period just before the election and COPE drew 7,42% of the actual votes in the national election on 22 April 2009.
Current support for COPE
Current support for COPE stands at 2,2% of eligible voters (South Africans older than 18), who indicated on a secret ballot paper in an Ipsos Markinor poll conducted from 21 October to 13 November 2009 that they would vote for COPE. This is a drop of more than 5 percentage points since April 2009.
Looking at the profile of the 2,2% who voted for COPE on the secret ballot it is clear that:
the support for the party is largely concentrated in Gauteng
representatives of all population groups form part of COPEs constituency (supporter base)
the partys current support consists of more male than female supporters
the party draws support from all age groups, but a third of their support comes from younger people, aged 18-24.

Profile of current COPE supporters:

  %   %
Province   Sex  
Gauteng 78 Male 57
North West 17 Female 43
Eastern cape 5 Age  
Community Size   18-24 33
Metro 38 25-34 23
City 45 35-49 21
Village/Rural 17 50+ 23
Population Group   Working Status  
White 45 Yes, working 45
Coloured 29 No, not working 55
Black 26    

Potential support
To get a better understanding of the spectrum of opinions about the eight biggest political parties in the country Ipsos Markinor asked respondents to express an opinion about each of these parties by making use of a holistic scale. Each voter had to indicate how he/she feels about each party on a 6-point scale ranging from I reject this organisation completely and on principle to I would definitely vote for this organisation, if there were an election.

The results regarding COPE were as follows:

I reject this organisation completely and on principle 27
I personally am against this organisation, but I can see that it is of benefit to some people in the country 17
I have no feelings, good or bad, about this organisation 27
I feel quite good about this organisation, but I would not vote for it, if there were an election 10
I would perhaps vote for this organisation, if there were an election 8
I would definitely vote for this organisation, if there were an election 2
Dont know/Refused 9

According to this, 8% of eligible voters said that they would perhaps vote for COPE. This potential support for the party mainly comes from Gauteng (21%), the Eastern Cape (20%) and the Western Cape (19%).
Comparing these results to the profile of current COPE supporters discussed earlier, the party has the potential to increase support in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape and explore new possibilities in the Western Cape.
However, as 38% of potential support for COPE comes from metropolitan areas and a further 35% from villages and rural areas, the party has to address a variety of issues important to people who live in big cities, whilst not forgetting the interests of people in the more remote areas of the country.
Potentially more females (55%) than males (45%) might support COPE and, in terms of age, the greatest potential for supporters lies among those older than 35 (especially people between 35-49 years old).(iii)
Leadership and the image of leaders are very important elements in the political scene of our country and we saw that the leadership struggles and the resulting uncertainty had a devastating effect on COPEs election hopes.
Respondents were asked to indicate how many points out of 10 they would allocate to a political leader, where 0 meant that the person was totally against the leader and 10 meant that the person was totally in favour of the leader. Mosiuoa Lekota, the leader of COPE, scored 5.85 out of 10 as judged by supporters of his own party. ANC supporters gave him a score of 3.73, DA supporters 3.87 and IFP supporters 2.94.
All sample surveys are subject to a certain margin of error, as opinion polling is not an exact science. Results have to be evaluated within the margin of error. For the study as a whole this margin of error is between 0.72% and 1.66%.

(i) South Africans who are older than 18, are registered to vote, want to vote and are likely to vote.
(ii) In this poll personal in-home interviews were conducted with 3 500 randomly selected adults (16 years and older) from all walks of life and geographical areas in South Africa. The results were weighted and projected to the universe, i.e. the adult South African population and are representative of the views of the population in terms of province, gender, race, age, working status and other demographic features. To get the views of eligible voters, results were filtered by those 18 years and older.
(iii) Potential support profile:
18-24 years old: 24% 25-34 years old: 21% 35-49 years old: 34% and older than 50: 21%.

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