Election 2024: What do Ghanaian voters want from presidential candidates? 
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Election 2024: What do Ghanaian voters want from presidential candidates? 

Election 2024 is five months away. As candidates for President and Parliament travel the length and breadth of the country and respective constituencies, several promises are being made to voters. It is sometimes intriguing to hear some of the promises as it begs the question of whether it is the supply side (candidate-initiated) or demand side (voter-initiated). Whether candidate or voter-initiated, election promises assume that there is a fair sense of what voters want.

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So, what do Ghanaian voters want as they prepare to vote on December 7, 2024? And to what extent are the promises of candidates for this year’s election reflective of what Ghanaian voters want?

What Ghanaian Voters Want

In the most recent election survey (June 2024), Prof. Smart Sarpong in his baseline study asked the following question – “What in your view is Ghana's most critical challenge today that the next President must address?” The number one issue was unemployment, out of a total of 15 issues. The next three important issues were inflation, economic slowdown and poor roads.

In April 2024, Global Info Analytics asked respondents in their survey the following question “What are the three most important issues that you would consider in the run-up to the 2024 elections when making your choice as to who to vote for?” The number one issue was jobs, out of a total of 11 issues. The next three important issues were the economy, education and roads. Interestingly, in their December 2023 poll, the economy emerged as the number one issue followed by jobs. 

The Afrobarometer survey regularly asks, “In your opinion, what are the most important problems facing this country that the government should address?” Out of the eight times that the question has been asked, unemployment has emerged as the number one priority five times (2002, 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017). The other three times it was management of the economy twice (2014, 2022) and infrastructure once (2019).

Evidence

Two more pieces of evidence to help reiterate the importance of this issue to Ghanaians. First, in 2021, the CDD-Ghana conducted a post-election survey in which it also asked, “In your opinion, what are the most important problems facing this country that the government should address?” Out of 24 identified issues, unemployment emerged as the number one important problem. 

In 2016, when Dr Owusu Mensah (Legon Political Science Department) asked Ghanaians across 24 swing constituencies which issue would affect their choice of candidate, jobs emerged as number one tied with the economy.

Two things are very clear- a) from the two election year surveys so far, unemployment is the top priority of voters and b) from the additional surveys analysed, this topmost priority has not changed over time.

This means that what Ghanaians want from presidential candidates are big bold ideas on job creation, keeping in mind that there are several job creation efforts which governments have tried during the Fourth Republic.

 For the priority to persist and remain unchanged is a clear indication that these efforts have not yielded a long-lasting impact. I pointed this out a few months ago in a Daily Graphic op-ed piece that Ghanaians have rated government performance very poorly when it comes to job creation as per the Afrobarometer survey. Across nine rounds of the survey, only an average 37 per cent have said government is handling job creation “fairly well or very well.” Government performance rating has ranged between 16 per cent and 54 per cent over the same period. 
Worse still, how Ghanaians have rated government performance on job creation between 2008 and 2022, has declined significantly by 38 percentage points. Over the same period, the percentage of Ghanaian youth who rate government performance well on job creation has declined significantly by 40 percentage points.

Topmost Priority of Ghanaians

The campaigns of the two main political parties are fully aware of this perennial problem of unemployment. In his “Ghana’s Next Chapter: Selfless Leadership and Bold Solutions For The Future” speech delivered on February 7, 2024, Vice-President Dr Bawumia mentioned the word “jobs” a total of 19 times. For several policy ideas enunciated in the speech, the outcome was always job creation. Former President John Mahama has proposed the idea of a 24-hour economy. In the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document available on his website(www.johnmahama.org) the word “jobs” is mentioned a total of 13 times. As it clearly states, “The 24-hour Economy being proposed by H.E John Mahama is for jobs, jobs and more jobs.”

But as the two main campaigns float various ideas, the question voters must ask is this – what is different about Election 2024 job creation ideas compared to all other efforts during this Fourth Republic? And what real long-lasting difference will they make?

The writer is the Project Director, Democracy Project.

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