Survey: More Than Half of Ghanaians Not Aware of the December Referendum

Accra, Ghana, November 12, 2019//-More than half of Ghanaians are not aware of the upcoming December 2019 referendum on whether local government elections should be made partisan or remain non-partisan, a new Afrobarometer survey released today revealed.

The inaugural of the Afrobarometer Ghana round eight 2019 survey which was launched in Accra, also disclosed that; “men, the highly educated, and elderly citizens are more aware of the referendum than women, citizens with less schooling, and young adults”.

Although a slim majority of those who are aware of the referendum find the Electoral Commission’s preparations for the referendum to be satisfactory, very few say there has been a lot of education about the voting exercise.

The survey also indicated that a significant proportion of Ghanaians are either not likely to vote in the referendum or “don’t know” whether or not they will vote.

The referendum seeks the opinion of Ghanaians as to whether local government elections should be open to partisan political competition.

The Constitution requires a minimum 40% voter turnout for the referendum to be valid. But there is a risk of low voter turnout for this referendum, since it will be conducted together with local government elections, which historically attract less than 40% of registered voters.

For the Electoral Commission, policy makers, and civil society, these findings point to a need for intensified education.

Key findings

  • Fewer than half (42%) of Ghanaians are aware of the December 2019 referendum on whether local government elections should be made partisan or remain non-partisan.
  • Awareness increases with respondents’ level of education, reaching 62% among those with post-secondary education, compared to 35%-42% among those with less schooling.
  • Men (52%) are more likely to be aware of the referendum than women (32%).
  • Awareness increases with age, ranging from 40% of youth to 47% of those over age 55.
  • Among those who are aware of the election: More than half (54%) say the Electoral Commission’s preparations have been satisfactory; and Only 18% say there has been a lot of education about the referendum (Figure 4).
  • Six in 10 Ghanaians (58%) say they are likely to vote in the December 2019 referendum. A significant minority are either not likely to vote (29%) or say they “don’t know.”

What experts are saying?

A senior Research Fellow and Head of Advocacy and Institutional Relations of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Kwesi Jonas said: “Afrobarometer enables us to know what is happening in Ghana’s democracy”.

He described the newly released survey as “very accurate” but was not enthused that more than half of Ghanaians are not aware of the upcoming referendum.

“This is a bad news for the referendum”, Dr Jonas said during a panel discussion on the survey findings.

However, the good news is that 60% of the respondents sampled for the survey said they would vote in the referendum despite the low awareness, according to him.

Dr Jonas lamented: “If these results are anything to go by, those of us in the civil society and media have not done our awareness creation”.

He concluded that in spite of all its impactions, Ghana’s is strong in Africa.

Dr Patrick Osei-Kufuor of the University of Cape Coast commended the Afrobarometer team for the insightful survey but suggested to them to widening the score of the survey.

Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, a local governance expert who chaired that the ceremony appealed to Ghanaians to turn out in their numbers to vote in the upcoming referendum.

The survey

Seven rounds of surveys were completed in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018. Round 8 surveys in 2019/2020 are planned in at least 35 countries.

Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in Ghana, led by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), interviewed 2,400 adult Ghanaians between 16 September and 3 October 2019.

A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-2 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys were conducted in Ghana in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2017.

Instructively, Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across Africa.

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