Year: 2019
Working paper number: 436
Author: Jeremy Seekings
Unit: CSSR

Social grants are paid monthly for about one in three South Africans. This paper examines both the positive and negative effects of social grants on voters’ support for the incumbent party in South Africa. I examine the relationships between receiving a grant, attitudes towards grants, evaluation of the performance of the government, identification with the incumbent party, and voting intention, using countrywide data from 2018. Whilst there is variation in attitudes towards grants, these are not correlated with whether the household receives a grant or not. Bivariate analysis suggests that both receiving a grant and attitudes to grants inform intention to vote for the incumbent party. Part of the bivariate relationship between receipt of a grant and voting for the incumbent party might be due to a positive effect of grant receipt on turnout. A more complete, multivariate model suggests, however, that there is no relationship between either grant receipt or attitudes towards grants, and voting intention, when controls are included for assessments of government performance generally, partisan identification and demographic factors. The paper corroborates and extends the findings from previous studies in South Africa that grants are not a major contributor to voting intention: Receipt of a grant does not seem to increase the likelihood of voting for the incumbent party, and a critical attitude towards grants does not seem to reduce the likelihood of voting for the incumbent party. Grants might be paid to many South Africans, but they do not seem as important as enduring loyalties to the incumbent party or assessments of its overall performance.

Publication file: WP436 Seekings.pdf