Voting decisions and racialized fluidity in South Africa’s metropolitan municipalities

Marcel Paret*, Carin Runciman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Do racial identities determine voting behaviour in post-apartheid South Africa? To address this question, we draw from a representative sample of 3,905 registered voters in five metropolitan municipalities: Johannesburg, Tshwane, Durban, Cape Town, and Nelson Mandela Bay. Our findings are mixed. On the one hand, Black voters were significantly more likely to vote for the African National Congress, whereas Coloured, Indian, and especially white voters were more likely to vote for the Democratic Alliance. This contrast comes into particular focus when we examine how voters acted over the course of a three-election period. On the other hand, race was far from a guaranteed predictor, not the least because many chose to abstain from voting—a trend that extended, though unevenly, to all racial groups. Importantly, though, the electorate did not split between party loyalists and consistent abstainers. Instead, fluidity predominated: About half of the electorate changed positions between elections, either by switching between parties or between voting and abstaining. Our findings thus demonstrate what we call ‘racialized fluidity’: Many voters are changing their voting decision from one election to the next, but in the aggregate, racial identity remains correlated with voting decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-298
Number of pages30
JournalAfrican Affairs
Issue number487
Early online date22 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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