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Changing perceptions of Akufo-Addo’s presidency • Insights from the Afrobarometer Survey

BY: Dr John Osae-Kwapong
Changing perceptions of Akufo-Addo’s presidency • Insights from the Afrobarometer Survey

Three rounds of the Afrobarometer survey occurring during a single presidency allow for the construction of a narrative that describes the patterns of how Ghanaians view a particular presidency, noting any highs and lows.

As I reflect on the recent two public releases of the Afrobarometer Round 9 survey, it is quite instructive to note the changing perceptions of the Akufo-Addo presidency in a negative direction.

Let us examine these changing perceptions on seven indicators in three thematic areas – performance (managing the economy, job creation and addressing educational needs); the fight against corruption (perceptions of corruption at the presidency and evaluation of the fight against corruption); and evaluation of the President (approval and trust).

These thematic areas and indicators were selected against the backdrop of the core campaign messages and policy promises that ushered in the Akufo-Addo presidency.

In Round 7 (2017) of the survey, the first during this presidency, the view was incredibly positive. On the question of performance, Ghanaians rated the government’s performance very well: 71 per cent said the economy was being managed fairly/very well; 50 per cent said the same of job creation, noting that this was the second highest approval for job creation in the history of the survey (the highest before this was 55 per cent in 2008) and 82 per cent believed educational needs of Ghanaians were being handled fairly well/very well too.

In the fight against corruption, there was a 67 per cent approval in how well the government was fighting corruption. This was especially important because, after a high approval (73 per cent) in Round 2, 2002, the perception of the fight against corruption had been on a downward trajectory, declining to as low as 26 per cent in 2014.

Additionally, about 31 per cent of Ghanaians viewed the presidency as being involved in corruption, a 21-percentage drop from Round 6 in 2014. Regarding his performance, the President enjoyed the highest rating in the history of the Afrobarometer, with 82 per cent of Ghanaians giving him a nod of approval.

Lastly, there was a strong level of trust in the President with 48 per cent saying they trusted him “a lot”, second to the 57 per cent from 2005 and 2008 and up by 25 percentage points from the previous round in 2014.

From the high note recorded in 2017, by Round 8 in 2019, perceptions of the presidency had changed in a negative direction. Double-digit declines emerged in four key areas – fi ght against corruption (-26 per cent); performance approval (-21 per cent); managing the economy (-19 per cent) and trust (-15 per cent).

These declines, however, do not compare to the declines seen in the recently released fi ndings from Round 9 of the survey. Not only was there no recovery from the declines experienced in 2019, but there was also further deterioration of perceptions.

Across the indicators examined, the average decline in 2019 was 13 percent compared to an average decline of 22 per cent in 2022. Besides doubledigit declines across all the indicators examined, a cumulative look at the declines show incredibly signifi cant declines in job approval (-53 per cent); managing the economy (-52 per cent); and fighting corruption (-52 per cent).

Points of reflection

There is no denying the groundswell of support and goodwill that greeted this presidency at the beginning of its term in office. This is a presidency ushered in by defeating an incumbent who had served just one term in offi ce – the first of its kind in the Fourth Republic.

This is a presidency that rolled out key policy initiatives across all sectors of the economy – Free SHS, One District One Factory, Planting for Food and Jobs, One Village One Dam, Nation Builders Corps among others.

And while the CDD-Ghana preelection survey in 2020 held a number of bright spots for this presidency here 69 per cent were optimistic about the country’s economic future; approval was generally high for government efforts in key areas – economy (60 per cent); job creation (56 per cent); addressing educational needs (75 per cent); and preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic (83 per cent), the downward spiral of citizen’s perception barely two years post-election in the Afrobaromter survey leads me to one burning question – What went wrong?