Dr Mahamudu Bawumia — NPP flag bearer,  John Mahama — NDC flag bearer
Dr Mahamudu Bawumia — NPP flag bearer, John Mahama — NDC flag bearer

Election polls: Warning signals for NPP

The outcome of the Brexit Vote and the election of Donald Trump fuelled scepticism about the utility of polls. However, this has not stopped pollsters from conducting polls. 


Global Info Analytics released a comprehensive national poll on April 8 about the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Donna Brazile, an American political strategist once said, “In modern politics, polls often serve as the canary in the mine—an early warning signal of danger or trends.”

I highlight some of the signals that caught my attention. I juxtapose some of them against data from the most recent Afrobarometer survey (Round 9, 2022).

Warning signals

Signal 1 – Vice-Presidents, as presidential candidates, must deal with the record of the administration they were part of whether good or bad. They must also deal with the extent to which voters hold them culpable for that record. As per the poll results, six out of ten (60 per cent) hold Dr Bawumia partially culpable for the economic challenges faced.

Furthermore, four out of ten (36 per cent) New Patriotic Party (NPP) partisans share this sentiment which may partially explain the next three signals. Signal 2 – The regional distribution of voting intentions shows that twenty-three per cent (23 per cent) of voters in the Ashanti Region do not intend to vote.

 This is not a very encouraging signal given the critical importance of the region to the electoral fortunes of the party. In the most recent Afrobarometer survey, on voting intentions, 21 per cent in the region expressed the same sentiment.

Signal 3 – Twenty-five per cent (25 per cent) of those who identify themselves as NPP do not intend to vote or are undecided compared to only three per cent among those who identify themselves as National Democratic Congress (NDC). Again, the most recent Afrobarometer showed that on the same sentiment, it was 20 per cent among NPP partisans but only five per cent among NDC partisans.

Signal 4 – The 2024 voting intentions of those who voted in 2020 show only six out of ten (60 per cent) Akufo-Addo voters intend to vote for Dr Bawumia compared to nine out of ten (92 per cent) John Mahama voters who intend to vote for him this year.

 If the National Commission for Civic Education does its election year survey, look out for the question “Do you intend to vote for the same party as you did in the last election” and what percentage answer yes. It will help further validate this finding from the poll.

Signal 5 – When Alan Kyerematen declared his intention to run as an independent candidate my observation was that, at best, it would have a spoiler effect on the candidacy of Dr Bawumia. Interestingly, he is attracting almost eight per cent (7.5 per cent) of the vote, according to the poll.

Given the fact that he emerged as an independent candidate from the incumbent party the spoiler effect argument may hold. I will be curious to see what other polls pick up this year and the eventual outcome of the election.

Signal 6 – The polls show John Mahama ahead of Dr Bawumia by a margin of 59 per cent-20 per cent among floating voters. These are the voters who may not necessarily identify with any political party but do vote.

And no political party can get to the 50 per cent plus one threshold without votes beyond their partisan base. In the most recent Afrobarometer, on the same question of voting intentions, among those who described themselves as not feeling close to any political party, John Mahama led Dr Bawumia by a margin of 50 per cent – 23 per cent. 

Global Info Analytics

The transparent and public sharing of the poll’s methodology helps situate the results and allows for a healthier conversation about the utility of the findings. I strongly commend this best practice.

My main feedback is this: The sample has more a) male (54 per cent) than female (46 per cent) voters; b) 18-35-year-olds (47 per cent) than other age groups; and c) three out of 16 regions make up 38 per cent of the sample size.

The analysis does weight the data to correct for this. In subsequent polls, I will strongly encourage a little more sensitivity to this especially because The Electoral Commission’s 2023 voters register serves as the sampling frame.

Polls will always be subjected to scrutiny and rightly so. The key issue tends to be about methodology. The perceptions of bias of the pollster and the reception of partisans also come into play.

Pollsters must ensure methodological rigour for it is the only thing they control and that which gives their results credibility. As for the perceptions of bias and the reception from partisans, it is the hazards of the occupation.

No one knows with certainty what voters will do on election day. However, generally well-done polls, like this one, capture signals of what they probably intend to do. 
I encourage more, and not less, polling.

The writer is the Executive Director of Democracy Project, a political think tank.


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