Voter education and older African first-time voters in South Africa's 1994 elections


In the run-up to the first non-racial democratic elections held in April 1994 voter education targeted all South Africans to promote free and fair elections. A particular challenge for the campaign launched by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was to reach illiterate and rural citizens. A nationwide representative sample survey conducted shortly after the elections sought to evaluate the effectiveness of voter education. The dataset pertaining to African first-time voters (n = I 208) was re-analysed for this paper to compare the subjective experience of voter education and voting behaviour among older (50+ years) and younger citizens. A risk analysis was applied to identify categories of older persons who were less likely than others to receive voter education messages and to go to the polls. The results indicated that the voter education campaign was successful in engaging older voters and that voting behaviour of older and younger voters was similar. Where differences occurred, they were mainly associated with rural location and also education factors but rarely with age. The finding that post-election euphoria among older first-time voters equaled or surpassed that of younger voters led to the conclusion that voting was experienced as a particularly fulfilling moment in the lives of older black South Africans.


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