Mapping ANC, DA, MK and EFF support by race

Gareth van Onselen focuses in on the DA's complicated relationship with its black voters and sympathisers

With the official 2024 election numbers aggregated it is possible to produce an accurate profile of political party support by race. Typically, any such assessment is largely devoid of evidence and anecdotal in nature. In turn, the Democratic Alliance is the focal point – the primary claim being that it is a “white” party, unable to win over “black” support. This analysis aims to set out the latest evidence in this regard, by looking at the support for the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). 


Three things are necessary to do this.

Step 1: Generate the racial profile of the voters roll. The IEC does not publish the voters roll by population group, but it is possible to map the voters roll in this way, to a very high degree of accuracy. It is a complicated and extensive process, that involves overlaying census data and Voting Districts (there are around 23,000 VDs) using the Geographic Information System (an electronic mapping system used by the IEC). This can be done down to a very high level of detail, but let us leave it at that, for the sake of brevity.

Step 2: Identify the racial profile of party support. Here we can use the SRF election track. If we treat the track like a consolidated survey, it is an immense and powerful resource. It ran for six weeks, up to 48 hours before the election, polled a total 7,196 registered voters with a margin of error of 1.16% (effectively the biggest survey during the election period) and tracked core demographics. Using this, we can map baseline support by race (if turnout was 100%).

Step 3: Remodel that database for 58% turnout (what it was in the election) and use the final official IEC numbers for party support, to make it as accurate as possible. Using this, we can map actual party support by race on Election Day. 

From here, we have everything we need to determine what we need, to an incredibly accurate degree. It won’t be perfect, but it will be very close.

The broader context

First, it is helpful to understand the broader demographic context. StatsSA’s mid-year population estimates give us a good general overview of the country’s racial demographic profile. The graphic below sets out how the country’s racial profile has shifted for the period 2002-2023 (the 2023 numbers being the latest Census numbers, as no mid-year population estimates were produced that year).

The most notable insight here is that the minority population (Coloured, Indian and White combined) has shrunk by 3.51 percentage points over that period, down from 22.07% in 2002 to 18.16% in 2023. Simultaneously, the Black population has grown from 77.9% to 81.45%. The decline in the minority population has been driven primarily by a decline in the White population, down 3.21 points, from 10.48% to 7.27%, as a percentage of all South Africans.

This is a significant demographic trend for a party like the DA, which draws much of its support from the minority population. Likewise, it should be a boon for parties like the ANC, MK and EFF, which draw their support, almost exclusively, from the Black population.

Of course the general population is not the voters roll, which is all that matters when it comes to party support and elections. The following graphic illustrates the racial profile of the Voters Roll for the 2004, 2009, 2014, 2019 and 2024 national and provincial elections, as well as some of the core indicators for the 2024 election.

The key takeaway here is that, unlike the general population, the percentage of registered Black voters is A. less than the general population (76.6% in 2024 versus 81.5%) and B. declining marginally (from 78.2% in 2004 to 76.6% in 2024). 

This in turn, speaks to two things: a growing general alienation among Black voters as governance has declined, and the outstanding ability of parties like the DA to register its supporters to a disproportionate degree. 

(As an aside, the fact that White South Africans comprise 12.2% of the voters roll, as opposed to 7.3% of the general population, is one of the reasons a lot of polling companies routinely underestimate DA support, as they use census data, as opposed to the voters roll, to weight their data).

With regard to the core 2024 election indicators, all three minority groups (White voters, 74.6%, Coloured voters, 57.9% and Indian voters, 61.5%) turned out to a higher degree than their Black counterparts (55.2%) and, being the majority of all voters, Black voters were thus primarily responsible for the low general turnout figure, of 58.6%.

The ANC, DA, MK and EFF

Let us now look at support for the big four political parties, starting with the ANC, MK and EFF, whose support in racial terms is almost identical (graphs below)

Like MK and the EFF, the ANC is essentially a racially homogenous organisation. On Election Day, 98.3% of its support came from Black South Africans. For MK, 99.4% and for the EFF, 97.6%. There is no substantive difference in the baseline support (100% turnout) for these parties either: ANC: 97.4%, MK: 99.3% and EFF: 97.2% (national ballot). There is also virtually no difference between support for these parties provincially or nationally: their support by race remains almost identical. 

The only real difference, is the degree to which these parties were able to get their base support out to vote on Election Day. But, even though they did this at different rates, because their support is so racially homogenous, however successful or unsuccessful they were, it made no difference to the racial composition of their support.

Support for the DA by race is fundamentally different, as the graph below demonstrates.

Let us start with the DA’s base support. On the national ballot, 43.4% of the DA’s support comes from White voters, 19.6% from Coloured voters, 18% from Black voters and 8.9% from Indian voters. The proportion of Black voters increases to 24.2% on the provincial ballot. In terms of the party’s base support, White voters constitute the single biggest minority, but Black, Coloured and Indian support together constitutes 56.5% and 59.9% of the DA’s total support respectively.

With regards to Black voters in particular, 954,126 identified as DA voters on the national ballot, and 1,282,770 on the provincial ballot.

On Election Day, the DA did not manage to hold onto all 18% of its baseline Black support (as was true for all parties) and its Coloured support, both of which dropped (to 14.3% and 18.5% respectively). But it did do exceptionally well to turnout, to an astonishingly high degree, its White voters, which increased to 58.6% of its total support on Election Day.The following graphic compares all four parties together, and perhaps best illustrates the fundamental difference between the DA’s support, and the racially homogenous support of the other three parties

At this point there is a common sense observation worth making: it is patently obvious the DA, by some considerable margin, is the only substantive political party with a meaningfully diverse racial support base. 

Turning out support

But it is worth looking at the DA’s support base outside of its hard Election result. In particular, its ability to be able to translate its baseline support into votes on Election Day. Here is how each of those four parties did, when it comes to turnout by race.

With regards Black support, MK stands out as the most effective in turning out its base. 63.4% of its baseline support voted on Election Day. This was significantly more than the ANC (55.8%). The DA outperformed the EFF (52.7% versus 50.3%) but the difference was marginal.

The DA had a substantial problem turning out its baseline Coloured support but was exceptionally strong among White voters (89.3%) and strong among Indian voters (63.5%). The ANC, MK and the EFF all failed to turnout what miniscule minority support they had, in every case resulting in their final percentage of Black support increasing as a proportion of their total vote share. 

The history of DA support

It is worth taking a step back and looking at the nature of the DA’s support over time. The graph below sets out the DA’s support by race over the past five national and provincial elections.

Between 2004 and 2019, the percentage of White voters, as a proportion of the DA’s total vote share systematically shrank – from 67.8%, to 65.7%, to 53.1%, to 46.7%. In 2024 it grew again, to 58.6%. It’s percentage of Black support has grown over the same period, from 9.3% in 2004, to 11.1% in 2014, to approximately 14% in 2019 and 2024.

In terms of hard numbers, that breaks down as follows:

  • 2004: 171 507
  • 2009: 115 319
  • 2014: 453 625
  • 2019: 516 908
  • 2024: 502 696

In 2024, this puts the DA more or less on par with the IFP (592,244) but far off Black voter support levels for the ANC (6,349,877), MK (2,330,245) and the EFF (1,492,980). 

Comparing the DA and IFP

The comparison with the IFP is worthwhile. It, unlike the DA, draws little or no attention regarding the racial composition of its support or its poor national representation. It remains primarily – indeed, almost exclusively – a KwaZulu-Natal party, that draws its support on the back of a diluted form of ethnic nationalism (81% of IFP voters are Zulu-speaking, not dissimilar from MK, at 78%). Although the IFP would never admit to this and, like the DA and ANC, claims to be a “home for all”, it is never held to that standard and broadly accepted as racially homogenous. 

Despite this, the DA – which does genuinely enjoy a broad racial spread of support – almost matches the IFP when it comes to Black support. Here are the two parties side by side.

One can take that comparison further. The following graphic sets out Black support in absolute numbers for every party elected to parliament (excluding Good and the CCC, whose support is almost exclusively drawn from Coloured voters).

The DA’s support among Black voters is substantially more the rest of the opposition. The graphic above demonstrates that, in terms of baseline support and support on Election Day, the DA’s total Black voter baseline support (954,126) and Election Day support (512,002) is more than the total Black voter support for all 9 other smaller parties combined (817,137 and 356,561).

Why is the DA’s black support not more substantial?

The answer is complex but in the short term it is that, while the DA is capable of winning the support of a substantial number of Black voters, it cannot seem to hold onto those voters the closer an Election gets. This is a fairly typical pattern for the DA. Outside of an Election, the DA’s support among Black voters is significant. As the Election campaign unfolds, and parties like the ANC, MK and EFF turn on DA (often accompanied by the large sections of the media), and tropes such as it being a “white party”, “racist”, “likely to take SA back to apartheid” are rolled out, those Black South Africans willing to identify as DA voters, tend to opt-out. 

This is best illustrated by looking at what 2024 Election research showed about the DA’s support leading up 29 May 2024. The SRF ran substantive national surveys in July 2022, March 2023, September 2023 and of course the election track. If we set out the nature of DA support in each of those surveys, we get the following graphic.

In July 2022, the DA was on 25.1% among registered voters, in term of baseline support. 31.8% of that support came from Black South Africans (or approximately 2,020,201 voters). In March 2023, it was on 23.4% and 28.2% of that support came from Black South Africans (approximately 1,807,548 voters). In September 2023 its baseline support was 28.6% and 43.2% of that support came from Black South Africans (approximately 3,423,709 voters). Yet by the time the Election came, its baseline black support had dropped to 18% (956,937) and on Election Day, 14.3% (502,696).

That untapped “pool of potential” is further illustrated by looking at the party’s favourability among Black voters, which remains relatively strong. Here is what the SRF track found:

Over the six weeks prior to the election, 12.8% of registered Black voters were “very favourable” towards the DA (in absolute terms, that is around 2,721,946 voters). A further 6.7% (1,637,421) were “somewhat favourable” – a combined total of 19.5% (or 4,359,367). That is before you include a further 16% who are “neutral” towards the party and 17.5% who are “unsure” or “unfamiliar”. The DA’s “pool of potential” among Black voters (people who are favourable towards the DA and open to being persuaded to vote for the party) is significant and not too dissimilar from MK, the EFF or the IFP. 

Just by way of comparison, these are the combined “very” and “somewhat” favourable scores for all the big parties, among Black voters:

  • ANC: 50.5%
  • MK: 26.2%
  • EFF: 29.4%
  • DA: 19.5%
  • IFP: 18.0%

In the final analysis, a good way of looking at the DA’s potential (or the potential for any party) is three tiers – an inverted pyramid so to speak. 

  • First, its favourability. This represents the broadest potential set of voters: people predisposed to the DA, who feel positive about the party, and need to be transformed into dedicated voters.
  • Second, baseline support. This represents those voters who have moved from simply being favourable to the party, to be willingly identified as DA voters.
  • Third Election support. This obviously represents a party’s most committed supporters, those people who makes a point of actually voting for a party on Election Day.
  • With regards to the DA, the situation is as follows, among Black voters.
  • Favourability (very and somewhat favourable): 19.5% of all registered black voters – approximately 4.3m voters
  • Baseline (100% turnout): 19.1% (national ballot) and 20.6% (provincial ballot) – approximately 1m and 1.2m voters
  • Election (58% turnout): 20.81% – approximately 500,000 voters

If the DA can find a way to translate its extensive favourability and support among Black South Africans into hard votes, 30% will become a realistic possibility. There are signs it is moving in the right direction. The party’s Black support is increasing, albeit off a small base, and it is holding up during the official election campaign better than it ever has before. The 28% it reached in September 2023 was without precedent in the DA’ national election history, that close to an Election. And, finally, even though its total support among Black voters did drop as the Election got closer, its favourability held up extremely well, suggesting its pool of potential is still there.

How and why the DA has failed to translate this potential into hard votes is subject for another analysis. This essay is simply designed to establish the facts. In summary, they are as follows:

  • The DA has the most racially diverse support base out of all big parties.
  • In terms of its baseline support, White DA voters are in a minority: 56.5% of DA base support comes from Coloured, Indian and Black Voters.
  • With regards to Black voters in particular, 954,126 identified as DA voters on the national ballot, and 1,282,770 on the provincial ballot.
  • The DA struggled to turnout its baseline Black and Coloured voters support on Election Day, but did exceptionally well in turning out White voters, resulting in them constituting 58.6% of all DA support on Election Day.
  • On Election Day, around 500,000 Black voters voted for the party, significantly less than the ANC (6,349,877), MK (2,330,245) and the EFF (1,492,980) but roughly the same as the IFP (592,244).
  • The DA’s turnout rate among Black voters was 52.7%, better than the EFF (50.3%), marginally worse than the ANC (55.8%) and significantly behind MK (63.6%).
  • The DA’s total support among Black voters is more than all nine smaller parties represented in parliament combined.
  • The DA’s pool of potential among Black voters is significant. Around 4.3m Black voters are somewhat or very favourable towards the DA (19.5%) and in the run up to the 2024 Election, in September 2023, as many as 3.4m Black South Africans were willing to identify as DA voters.
  • The DA’ primary challenge is how best to: 1. Translate its extensive potential among Black voters from favourable to committed, 2. Hold that support through an official Election campaign, and in the face of a brutal racial assault on its legitimacy and 3. Turn those voters out to a disproportionate degree, in the same way it manages to do with minority voters.

This essay is the 15th in an on-going series on Election 2024, for all other editions of this series, please click here: Election 2024