Analysing voter abstention in the 2021 local government elections:
A view from five metropolitan municipalities
While voter abstention has been increasing, the findings of this report show it is a fluid
phenomenon. There is only a small core of ‘hardened abstainers’ – only 14% of those who were
eligible to vote in all three of the last elections abstained. As a result, most abstainers can be
described as partial abstainers.
On the question of the identity of non-voters, they are more likely to be young and students. They
are also more likely to be Black African, Indian or Coloured than White. Income has a curvilinear
relationship to abstention with non-voting higher at both the lowest and highest income groups.
The majority of reasons for not voting related to a range of individual and administrative barriers.
Of the individual barriers not being in your registered ward on Election Day was the most common,
followed by being at work. The most common administrative barrier was not being registered to
vote and this reason was particularly prominent among young people and students.
Performance evaluations – that is reasons related to disappointments about service delivery – were
the third most common explanation for not voting and more frequently discussed by poorer,
unemployed and Black African citizens.
Reasons related being uninterested and disillusioned were more frequently cited by men, amongst
those with matric or higher education and among higher income earners.
A lack of political alignment was mentioned in a small number of explanations overall but did more
prominently feature in the explanations of higher-income earners.
Publication by: Carin Runciman, Martin Bekker and Carol Mbeche