President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval rating has slipped further from 32.8% in February to 31.2% in March, amid worsening economic crisis and crippling fuel scarcity, according to a new poll.
The monthly poll by Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria, GAIN, says more Nigerians again scored Mr. Buhari low on his administration’s handling of the economy, power and fuel shortage.
It is the second time the president’s rating dropped since GAIN in December started monthly tracking of performance of governments at all levels in Nigeria.
In earlier months, the poll found that majority of respondents did not blame President Buhari for Nigeria’s economic troubles. They blamed former President Goodluck Jonathan instead.
In January, the president’s approval rating stood at 63.4%.
The trend however shifted significantly in February as the nation’s economic crisis bit harder.
In March, which is the latest result, the poll said more Nigerians continued to blame Mr. Buhari— not Mr. Jonathan— for the nation’s economic woes.
The falling rating was primarily due to petroleum scarcity, bad economy, power outage, and broken campaign promises, said the poll.
“A crippling fuel scarcity continued to affect individuals and business across the country, and had a concomitant effect on transportation and business costs,” said Malcolm Fabiyi, one of the poll’s coordinators, who previously served as a visiting professor at the Lagos Business School.
The president scored low on economy, power, and rule of law.
The poll also found that Nigerians voted the Agriculture Minister, Audu Agbeh, as best performing minister.
Ibeh Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum, who was voted best in February, slipped to third position, as a result of the fuel crisis, and his remarks that he was not a magician to end the scarcity.
The poll also reported lower rating for the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption war, with Nigerians disappointed by slow pace of prosecution and lack of convictions. There were also increased concerns about abuse of rule of law in anti-corruption fight.
The March GAIN survey was administered using electronic media. Eight hundred and seventy six (876) complete responses were received. The survey results have a 95% confidence level and ± 4% margin of error, according to the coordinators.
- Performance rating for the Buhari government remains low at 31.2%
- Top four reasons for Buhari government’s low ratings in March are Petroleum scarcity (71%), Economy (68%), Power (64%) and broken campaign promises (57%)
- Majority of Nigerians continue to hold Buhari responsible for the economy
- Nigerian Army extends status as the most respected National Institution
- Nigerian presidency is 3rd rated National institution, behind Army and EFCC
- Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture) rated top performing minister; Fuel Scarcity and “not a magician” statement tanks Kachikwu in ratings
- Anti-Corruption war drops below 50% as high priority area for the first time – Nigerians disappointed by slow pace of prosecution & lack of convictions
- Concerns linger about abuse of rule of law in anti-corruption fight (38%)
- 85% express dissatisfaction with Government’s handling of Fulani Herdsmen crisis
March was a very tough month for Nigerians, and a terrible one for the Buhari government. A crippling fuel scarcity continued to affect individuals and business across the country, and had a concomitant effect on transportation and business costs. The power sector continued to struggle, and for a brief period in March, there was zero power generation from the public power system. The Minister of State for Petroleum reminded Nigerians that he was “not a magician,” triggering a firestorm of criticism within the ruling APC government and across Nigeria. As for the anticorruption war – March was another month of legal maneuverings in the courts, leaving Nigerians frustrated about the lack of results and convictions. All of these realities are reflected in the March polls.
Low Performance Ratings Become the New Normal for Buhari Government
As with previous polls, we provided respondents with a 5 point-scale response to this question. A positive performance rating in our terminology refers only to those respondents that reported either an “Excellent” or “Good” rating. A negative rating comprises of those individuals that reported a “Poor” or “Very Poor” rating.
High approval ratings – interpreted as the combination of Excellent (15.1%) and Good (16.1%) ratings declined slightly to 31.2% in March compared to 32.8% in the February poll. Overall, the number of Nigerians giving President Buhari approval ratings of Excellent (15.1%), Good (16.1%) or Average (13.4%) reduced from 50.4% in the February polls to 44.6% in March.
Low Approval Ratings Confirmed by Simple Yes/No Methodology
We introduced a new question in the March poll that solicited a simple Yes/No two-scale response from respondents on the overall performance of the Buhari government. Since we can safely assume that respondents who gave “Excellent” or “Good” ratings in the performance rating question would likely also answer “Yes” in terms of their overall approval of the government, this newly introduced question compels respondents who gave an ”Average” rating in the 5 point scale performance rating question to select a single overall approval choice.
As would be expected, there was strong correspondence between the respondents who rated the performance of the Buhari government as Excellent, Good or Average on the five option performance rating question (44.6%) and those who gave a positive approval rating (47%) on the 2 scale, “Yes/No” job approval question.
Respondents & Buhari Voters Give Reasons for Low Approval of Buhari Government
In order to understand the major reasons for respondents’ disapproval of the Buhari government, we provided eight (8) of the most commonly expressed criticisms of the Buhari government to respondents. Respondents were required to select as many of the options as they believed to be relevant. The disapproval reasons covered topics such as broken campaign promises, perceptions of religious insensitivity, slow pace of progress in securing convictions in the anti-corruption war, availability of petroleum products, power supply, security, economy, sectional preferences, etc.
Respondents were offered the choice to indicate whether they had voted for President Buhari in the 2015 elections. The responses of those who voted for Buhari in 2015 were compared to the general respondent population. There was broad agreement between the responses from both groups, indicating that criticism of the performance of the Buhari government is not limited to opposition elements or those who did not vote for him in 2015.
Nigerians Speak – Reasons for Disapproval of Buhari Government
We allowed respondents to provide written comments on the reasons for their disapproval of the Buhari government. The themes expressed in the comments ranged from topics such as the slow pace of convictions in the anti-corruption war, Fulani herdsmen attacks, economic challenges, unemployment, to the perception that the President’s travels are misplaced given the serious challenges facing the country. We must emphasize the point that several respondents reiterated their frustration with the pace of prosecution of the anti-corruption war, especially with the lack of convictions so far.
We generated a word cloud (see below) to capture the essence of respondents’ views. In a word cloud, the size of the letters in a word, is indicative of the frequency of occurrence of that word – and therefore provides a qualitative indication of its relative importance.
Security, Anticorruption, Power and the Economy remain the priority areas
Security, Anticorruption, Power and the Economy remain the priority areas
Respondents were provided with a number of key segments and focus areas for the government and were required to provide a forced three tier ranking (High, Medium, Low) of their perceptions of the importance of each of the areas.
Under the “High” ranking response, security (Boko Haram Crisis) maintained its rating as the most important area of concern and/or interest by 54% of Nigerians. The top five (5) rated areas overall were Security (54%), Anti-Corruption (45%), Power (45%), Economy & Jobs (44%) and Education (41%). This was in line with previous polls.
For the first time since we began polling, anti-corruption fell below a “High” priority rating of 50%. Unless the Buhari government takes action to restore confidence in the anti-corruption war, by fast tracking the prosecution process, and most importantly starting to secure convictions, they stand the risk of seeing an erosion of support from Nigerians.
Anticorruption war maintains support, but concerns grow over abuse of rule of law
Support for the anti-corruption war remained at about 44%, in line with the February results (45%), and well off the high support of 76% in the January poll. There was a slight increase in the number of respondents expressing concern about the potential abuse of the rule of law from 35.3% in February to 38.4% in the March poll.
The number of Nigerians indicating that the anticorruption war targets the President’s political enemies increased slightly from 34.4% in the February poll to 35.1% in March. A slightly smaller percentage of respondents (30.5%) indicated that they believed that the anticorruption war targeted mostly members of the opposition PDP in March, compared to 33.1% in the February poll.
We first observed a major shift in the levels for the anticorruption war starting with the February poll. We reported at the time that we were unsure about the driver(s) for the significant drop in support from 76% in the January poll to about 45%, in the February poll. Our results from the March poll clearly indicate that these lower-than-majority levels of support are a new ‘normal’.
Anticorruption and Security are the only bright spots for the Buhari Government
The government received low ratings from majority of respondents in seven of the nine areas surveyed. The worst ranked areas (Low ranking) were Availability of Petroleum Products (83%), Housing (76%), Economy & Jobs (74%), Power (72%), Transportation (69%), Healthcare (65%), and Education (63%).
Only two areas were above 50% in positive ratings when “High” and “Medium” ratings are combined, and these are Security (75%) and Anticorruption (67%).
Ratings Tumble for Government Performance in Availability of Petroleum Products and Power
Low ratings for availability of petroleum products increased by a staggering 46%, from 37% in the February poll, to 83% in the March poll. The second highest decline was for Power, which fell 13% from 59% low ratings in February to 72% low ratings in the March poll. The decline in both the petroleum and power sectors was not surprising. Power generation dropped to zero across the entire country for a brief period at the end of March. Crippling fuel scarcity leading to long lines at petrol stations and the payment of exorbitant fees for fuel bought from roadside vendors has become standard across cities in Nigeria.
Welcome to the New Normal – Majority continue to hold Buhari government completely responsible for the economy
In line with our previous observations, more respondents held the Buhari government “completely” responsible for the current state of the economy (41% in March vs 35% in February) compared to 31% who indicated that the past Jonathan government was to blame. This marks the second consecutive month where Nigerians have increasingly shifted responsibility for the economy to the Buhari government.
For those who might have thought that the February numbers were an aberration that resulted from the tough foreign exchange situation that characterized that period, the March poll confirms that we might be seeing a new normal – in which Nigerians will likely be less forgiving in their assessment of the performance of the Buhari government.
We note that many respondents believe that state and local governments also have significant responsibility for the poor state of the economy.
Majority Remain Troubled by the economy, optimism about the future stays low
A slight majority of Nigerians (51.9%) expressed concerns about the economy – a slight decrease from the February poll (55.3%). Optimism about the economy fell from 30.3% in the February poll to 24% in March. On every other metric, respondents’ views did not change significantly between the February and March polls. 19.4% of respondents indicated that they see encouraging signs for jobs and employment, while 36.5% are of the view that nothing is being done by the government to create jobs. Only 34.4% indicated that they feel positive about the future.
Kachikwu Falters in Ministerial Performance Ratings; Lai maintains second place; Audu Ogbeh assumes pole position
The performance ratings of the Ministers has barely broken the 50% positive rating barrier, since we commenced the GAIN monthly poll in December 2015. March was no different. Ibe Kachikwu, who had led the ratings for the last two months dropped to fourth place behind Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture), Lai Mohammed (Information) and Adebayo Shittu (Communication).
Kachikwu’s ratings troubles are obviously linked with the grueling fuel scarcity that has gripped Nigeria for the last month. Raji Fashola (Power) fell from 3rd in the February poll to 7th in March.
It is not clear to us what concrete achievements or developments in the month of March have raised the profile of the Agriculture ministry (Audu Ogbeh). There was a lot of talk in March about the government’s employment and social welfare initiatives, which appear to be reliant on the agricultural sector for their successful rollout.
Nigerian Senate maintains dismal approval rating (12%); Army is the most respected national institution (53%)
As with our previous poll, Respondents were asked to rate the two (2) major political parties and ten (10) major governmental institutions, i.e., the Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, Army, Police, Judiciary, the 3 anti-corruption organs – EFCC, ICPC and CCB and the Central Bank.
We consider only “Very High” and “High” ratings in determining the comparative rankings for the various institutions. The Nigerian Army retained its ranking as the most highly rated governmental institution, with 53% of respondents rating it as high or very high – an improvement over the 49.4% rating in February. The EFCC ranked second with 33% of respondents giving it high or very high ratings (compared to 33.7% in February). The Presidency ranked third with 29% ratings, slightly off the 32.4% ratings from the February poll.
The APC was the highest ranked political party, with 19% high approval ratings compared to the PDP’s 5%. In future polls, we intend to introduce an additional question that will force respondents to give a Yes/No response on their overall approval of the various institutions.
Buhari Government Maintains High Scores for Handling of Boko Haram Crisis
The Buhari government continued to receive high ratings (very good and good ratings) for its handling of the Boko Haram crisis (72%). Ratings remain low on the government’s handling of other conflicts like the Biafra agitation, Fulani Herdsmen crisis and Shiite – Military conflicts.
The government’s successes on the Boko Haram front have come about as a result of concerted actions and clear policies aimed at routing the insurgency. We urge the government to take a similar coordinated, strategic and well-reasoned stance towards the other major security conflicts that currently plague Nigeria.
Majority Blast Buhari Government’s Handling of Fulani Herdsmen attacks
Criticism of the handling of the Fulani herdsmen crisis by the Buhari government has grown consistently since we started tracking opinions on the matter. We remain disturbed that the government does not appear to have any long-term plans for resolving this crisis. In the March poll, 85% of respondents rated the government’s handling of the Fulani herdsmen crisis as “Poor” or “Very Poor”. Urgent measures are required to address the Fulani herdsmen crisis. At the core of these conflicts is the question of year round access to grazing lands by the herdsmen. We believe there is opportunity in this crisis, to create long lasting agricultural policies that will lead to the modernization of animal husbandry practices in Nigeria.
Disaffection with Major Political Parties Grows
About 66% of respondents indicated that they did not belong to any political party. As with our previous polls, more respondents indicated that they were supporters of the APC (26.1%) compared to the PDP (8.1%).
Nigerians are mostly nonaligned political independents. The consistently large number of Nigerians that indicate non-alignment to any political party suggests there is a gap that neither of the major political parties is meeting. In future polls we will try to understand what Nigerians want to see in a political party that is not currently offered by the major incumbents.
Methodology & Disclosure
The rating of the performance of a government can be a very sensitive issue. We expect that our polling results, which we have run since December 2015, will come under increasing scrutiny as economic challenges, lingering fuel scarcity and persistent problems in the power sector emboldens once muted critical voices to speak out.
We have received many inquiries about our survey methodology, especially regarding the number of respondents that are sampled. This month’s methodology and disclosure section will therefore be longer than usual, as we seek to address some of the major questions about our methods. We will specifically address the question of the number of respondents that we aim for in our surveys, and go into some detail on our electronic media-enabled polling approach.
What number of respondents is needed for a valid national poll? This is perhaps the most important question that a pollster needs to answer, because it goes to the heart of the credibility of the results obtained from any polling effort. To answer this question, it will be necessary to understand more than just basic statistics. We will not attempt to provide a statistical tutorial, but we will provide some basic pointers that will provide readers with some insight about the statistical methods that underlie sample size determination.
What statistical principle allows Gallup – arguably the most respected polling agency in the World – to survey only 1,000 people, and based on that “small sample,” make robust projections on the outcomes of elections in a nation as vast and diverse as America with over 300 million citizens? Why can we (GAIN) confidently claim that the 876 Nigerians we polled in March can provide us with a 95% confidence level with a ± 4% margin of error?
There are five key variables that are critical to any polling exercise, these being – confidence level, margin of error, sample size, population and percentage. The first four are clearly determinable. A pollster can specify the target confidence level (usually 95%) for a polling study. The margin of error can also be specified, or determined once there is a respondent sample. Similarly, the population is usually known e.g., we typically use a population of 170 million persons for calculating our Nigeria focused survey statistics (the discerning reader will recognize that Nigeria does not have 170 million people who are of voting age, or who are old enough to provide feedback on the performance of any government. Using the national population is a conservative estimate that forces pollsters to use a higher sample size). However, in order to obtain the sample size, we must specify a value known as the “percentage.” The “percentage” is simply an estimation of the proportion of our sample that will give a particular answer. Statisticians generally use a value of 50% – which is the worst-case scenario – for this variable. Here is the intuition: if majority of the respondents to a question give a particular answer, e.g., 99% answer “Yes” and 1% answer “No”, the margin of error is likely to be low because there is a significant level of differentiation between those who have responded Yes or No, since 99% is very different from 1%. However, if 51% answer, “Yes” and 49% answer “No”, to the same question, the margin of error is going to be higher, because the separation or differentiation between the responses is small. By selecting a percentage of 50%, pollsters guarantee that the margin of error calculated for their sample will be high. It is a conservative assumption, which necessarily imposes the need for a larger sample size to meet a given confidence interval. The discerning reader will notice that the consistent theme in polling is conservatism.
The usefulness of a well-structured survey is dependent on its confidence interval (confidence level ± margin of error). Three factors affect the confidence interval: (i) sample size (ii) population and (iii) percentage. Pollsters generally start from one of two basis – firstly, they can determine what confidence interval (CI) to aim for, and then calculate the required sample size to meet that CI, or the Pollster can work with whatever sample population they have, and then back out what the implied CI is from that given population.
We are unable to go into the extensive statistical basis that underlie the calculations used for estimating sample sizes or determining confidence intervals. However, we will provide two websites for readers interested in getting some more fundamental understanding of the details, to visit in order to learn more about the subtleties of the statistics that underlies polling. The first website provides a decent overview of the basic mathematics that underlie the statistical approach used for the determination of polling and survey sample sizes . The second website provides access to a simple online tool that can be used to estimate sample sizes, or to determine the confidence interval specified by a given sample population.
One fundamental requirement in any polling study is for the sample population to be random. Responses should be solicited from platforms that do not systemically exclude specific voices or opinions. As a result, we do not solicit responses on Newspaper opinion sites. We carried out extensive studies on several electronic media platforms before settling on the use of agnostic, relatively ideology free and politically sterile social media sites like Facebook, as platforms from which the core of our respondents are obtained. We use platforms that are utilized extensively by Nigerians of all religious, ethnic and political persuasions and demographics (economic class, gender, etc.). We also aim for sites where we can selectively target large numbers of Nigerians. On Facebook for instance, our March survey solicitations were sent to 765,000 voting age Nigerians (18+ years, male or female, domiciled in Nigeria). About 25,000 clicked on the GAIN poll adverts, and a smaller subset of 786 respondents completed the survey. The balance of our respondents come from other means – email solicitations, twitter, etc. We balance sources so that we can also compare responses across different solicitation platforms.
We recognize that the exclusive use of social media in polling is fraught with limitations. We have spent the last two years developing and perfecting our approach. As with any poll, ours has its limitations. Being exclusively online, it systematically excludes the poorest Nigerians who have little to no access to the internet or to web enabled phones. Unlike phone calls or in-person surveys where the presence of a pollster can facilitate the process, even when the respondent might not be motivated to respond, an online poll requires motivated respondents who are ready and willing to complete the survey questionnaire. We stand by the validity of our methodology and approach. Our polls are self-funded, and we go through the cost and the efforts, because we believe that data is essential for good governance.
Using our electronic media-based survey approach we were able to successfully predict President Buhari’s historic victory and the sweep of the National Assembly polls by the APC in 2015. Many other platforms got it wrong. As scientists and intellectuals, we are careful about the ideas and projects that our names are associated with. In the extensive tests that we have carried out over the last two years, we have come to the reasoned conclusion that carefully selected electronic media present a robust platform for conducting well-crafted opinion surveys. We encourage other Nigerians – individuals, NGOs, and organizations – to carry out their own surveys and polls. The more polls and surveys that are available in Nigeria, the greater will be the opportunities for cross comparison of methods and outcomes. This is how progress can be made.