Why are African Presidents so Popular?

Gallup recently (April 25) released a new report showing approval ratings of African leaders. Many of them are inexplicably popular (a case of respondent preference falsification?). The polls were conducted in 2011.

Top of the list are the likes of Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) and Francois Bozize (CAF). Even the unapologetic, unreconstructed autocrats  Paul Biya (Cameroon) and Blaise Compraore (Burkina Faso) poll above 70%.

The whole report is here.

The least popular African leader is Eduardo dos Santos of Angola who polled at a dismal 16%. Angola is Sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer and China’s largest trade partner on the continent – China imports upwards of 43% of Angola’s oil. The likely denouement of the dos Santos succession is still unclear but one cannot rule out the possibility of turmoil when Angola gets to cross that bridge, especially in light of the fact that Angola’s appear to blame both dos Santos and the country’s leadership.

3 thoughts on “Why are African Presidents so Popular?

  1. African Presidents as well as the other politicians (Ministers, Members of Parliament, Councilors e.t.c) are the revered persons of the society in African countries thus manage to gather a lot of popularity especially among the middle class and the low income class.


  2. This is really interesting. I agree that it could be a social desirability bias/fear thing. It could also have to do with what people expect of the state (especially how low their expectations are), and what they mean when they say they approve of a leader. I don’t know enough about the politics of each of these to say if this applies, but to explain what I mean, Tajikistan has quite high approval scores for it’s government. Part of this is fear of expressing disapproval for sure, but another big part is that people remember civil war in the 1990s, they see chaos in Afghanistan to the south (and sometimes also in Kyrgyzstan to the north!), and suddenly their dysfunctional government doesn’t seem so bad. They approve of the fact that guerrilla armies aren’t shooting up the streets of Dushanbe. Jessica’s work in Mali could be another example–iirc people didn’t disapprove of the local government pre-intervention because they didn’t realize it was supposed to be doing anything for them. They had incredibly low expectations, and those expectations were met.


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