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Will public sentiment influence election of the new President in #ANC54?

The 54th ANC Presidential Elective Conference, which takes place every 5 years and is currently in session at Nasrec – southwest of Gauteng Province, South Africa – until the 20th of December, is arguably the first about which the majority of the country has expressed strong public sentiment.

While the 4 700 or so card-carrying and verified delegates with voting rights at the conference of Africa’s oldest liberation movement will decide who becomes the new president of the organisation for the next 5 years – and by extension the new ANC President will also become the President of the country in less than 2 years from now if this currently ruling party holds on to power at the 2019 national elections, the public have also actively made their choices known on the various platforms in a country where media is relatively free.


What is the public’s choice for new ANC President?

We have 2 final nominees in the running for the ANC President – #CR17 (Cyril Ramaphosa) and #NDZ17 (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma), after the initial 7 candidates for the position.

Here is a word cloud – top words used in online mentions – based on our analysis of >40 000 online mentions for the period 16-17 December 2017 alone.

<img src="eNitiate_Mention_Top_Words_17_dec_2017.png" alt="eNitiate Mention | Top Words | 17 Dec 2017”>

The finding from the word cloud analysis is that this is a fairly close race. However, #CR17 seems to have a slight edge over #NDZ17, as indicated by the number and size of underlined words related to each of them.


Will public sentiment have any influence on the results of the 54th ANC Elective Conference?

This is $1 million question.  We will attempt to answer it using online media as a proxy for public sentiment. For this purpose, we collected  >84 000 online mentions since Monday 11 December 2017.

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As we have mentioned above, only the 4 700 or so verified delegates attending #ANC54 will elect the new President of the organisation. On the face of it, the delegates are not affected by what happens in the public arena as the conference is progressing. However, we know that the very delegates – who are still to cast their votes as at 9pm ZA time on December 17,  are plugged into the various media platforms and are themselves sharing some of the information in the running radio and tv interviews and on platforms such as Twitter. Our analysis indicates that the delegates’ contribution to the discourse on online media is to some extent affecting the developing public sentiment.


Online Sentiment analysis 

In the Online Sentiment gallery below, we share individual graphs for #ANC54 (The Conference), CR17 and NDZ17. The analysed online sentiment is broken down into three periods – 11-15 December (before the Conference), 16-17 December (the first 2 days of the Conference) and Total (Past 7 Days).


  • The level of negative online sentiment for #ANC54 is high, and this can be expected given the fierce competitive environment in which the Conference is happening, with court cases that preceded the start and supporters of the 2 presidential nominees throwing mud at each other.
  • Of the 3 graphs in the gallery above, it will be noticed that only CR17 saw an improvement when comparing the periods 11-15 December (before the Conference) and 16-17 December (the first 2 days of the Conference).

Does this give an indication that Cyril Ramaphosa’s chances of being elected the Party President have improved? Let us dig some more.


Sentiment over the past 7 days by gender

In the gallery below, we analysed whether Online Sentiment is affected by gender dynamics.


  • #ANC54: men expressed higher negative sentiment compared to the total.
  • #CR17: there are no major changes between total Sentiment and that broken down by gender.
  • #NDZ17: more females have expressed negative Sentiment in #NDZ17 mentions.

The findings above do not seem to point us in any particular direction.


The answer to the $1 million question

The Online Sentiment findings above are not enough to answer the $1 million question about whether public sentiment will influence the election of new ANC President. Due to this race being so close to call, we will not jump the gun.

It is worth mentioning that only CR17 ran an official social media campaign for his bid for the ANC presidency.

We will know by the end of tomorrow, 18 December 2017, if this was worth it.


Edited 19 December 2017

The voting results for the new President of the ANC at its 54th elective conference were announced last night, and Cyril Ramaphosa – the outgoing Deputy President of both the organisation and the country – got the nod after a close race against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

We ran a poll earlier today to find out from the Twitteratti if public sentiment influenced the voting by the 4 708 eligible delegates, and here is how they responded:


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