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Election 2024: Party re-alignment or electoral re-alignment?

I return once more to the results of the Global Info Analytics poll released on April 8. In this piece, my focus is on something I observed and puzzled by in the poll.

On the question of who voters trust more, John Mahama’s score (2.05) is not significantly higher than Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s score (1.89). On the question of who is more competent to run the country, the scores are the same as those on the trust question. Again, the intrigue here is the size of the difference between the two candidates on two critically important factors that voters, I believe, will weigh when deciding who to vote for in the upcoming election.

On the back of a lot of positives in the poll for John Mahama, I expected the trust and competence margins to be much wider between him and Dr Bawumia. But that is not the case. What is going on? Party realignment or electoral realignment?
Let’s probe further using data from the poll and the Afrobarometer survey.

Party re-alignment?
When you look at party affiliation, it does not appear the ground has shifted much away from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in very significant proportions. Keep in mind that the political winds, in terms of the upcoming election, appear to be blowing favourably in the NDC’s direction than the NPP’s.

In the poll, on the question of party affiliation, NDC edges NPP by a small 34%-30% margin among all voters. Among first time voters, again, NDC edges NPP by a small 25%-22% margin. Finally, among non-first-time voters, NDC edges NPP by a 33%-31% margin, another very insignificant margin.

Between Afrobarometer Round 7, 2017 and Round 9, 2022, the percentage of Ghanaians identifying as NPP partisans dropped significantly from 62% to 49%. Over the same period though, the percentage of Ghanaians identifying as NDC partisans increased from 31% to 40%. Which means that even against the backdrop of the negative perceptions held of the Akufo-Addo administration, NPP still edges NDC on party affiliation as per the survey results by a 49% to 40% margin.

Further analysis of the Afrobarometer survey on party affiliation across all the nine rounds conducted in Ghana shows this: on average, fifty-five per cent (55%) of Ghanaians identify as NPP partisans compared to thirty-seven (37%) who identify as NDC partisans. Except for Round 1, 1999, where more Ghanaians (57%) identified as NDC partisans, all subsequent rounds of the survey (2002, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2019, 2022) show more Ghanaians consistently identifying as NPP partisans albeit in varying percentages.

Electoral re-alignment?
The Global Info Analytics poll has John Mahama leading Dr Bawumia by a 55.5%-33.9% margin. The analysis in the previous section does not point to a party re-alignment. Is it then a question of electoral re-alignment?
During the Akufo-Addo administration, there has been three rounds (2017, 2019, and 2022) of the Afrobarometer survey. Evaluation of government performance in five key policy domain areas (job creation, education, management of the economy, infrastructure and poverty), shows a sharp decline between 2017 and 2022 as per the table above. The table also shows a corresponding sharp decline in the percentage of those with intentions to vote for the NPP and an increase in the percentage of those with intentions to vote for the NDC.In 2017, the average government performance score across the five domains was 58%. In that year, the voting intentions were 60%-40% in favour of the NPP over the NDC. In 2019, the average score was 49%. In that year, the voting intentions were 49%-31% in favour of the NPP over the NDC. In 2022, the average score was 23%. In that year, voting intentions were 50%-37% in favour of the NDC over the NPP. The voting intentions are limited to those who indicated a party preference, including undecided. It excludes those who said they would not vote or refused to answer the question.

An interesting observation from the results of the Afrobarometer survey since the voting intention question was asked (2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2019, 2022) is that Ghanaians have regularly said they intended voting NPP, except in 2022. This is during a period in which the NPP lost two elections.

The bottom line

My take is this – the political winds blowing is an electoral and not a party affiliation re-alignment. Can the NPP turn the winds around given the slight advantage it still enjoys on party affiliation?

The writer is the Executive Director of Democracy Project, a political think tank.

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