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Zimbabwe Survey Provides Mixed Picture of Voter Sentiment - 2004-08-20

An independent opinion poll shows Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's popularity has more than doubled in five years to 46 percent. The poll also shows people feel worse off now than a generation ago.

Brian Raftopoulos, head of the department of development studies at the University of Zimbabwe, says he is not surprised by the survey's results. He said in an analysis published Friday, both the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, got an 18 percent approval rating, and civil rights activists, paid insufficient attention to constructing an alternative vision of Zimbabwe to that of the government.

The study, conducted jointly by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Center for Democratic Development of Ghana and Michigan State University, showed Zimbabweans are deeply concerned about eroding standards of living. But, Mr. Raftopoulos says the results also indicate that the people are resigned to the dominance of the Zanu PF government, because most of them are denied access to any information, except official propaganda published in state-run media.

The study found that Zimbabweans are losing faith in democracy, with half of all those interviewed saying they prefer to remain outside of either of the major political parties, because they believe political competition leads to social conflict.

According to the survey, the current generation of Zimbabweans believes they are worse off than their parents were, and only four percent saw land reform as a national priority. Seizure of most white-owned commercial farms has been the pivotal point of Mr. Mugabe's domestic policy over the last four years.

Two-thirds of those asked said they believe Zimbabwe's problems would be solved only if the opposition MDC and Zanu PF engaged in talks.