Propaganda and public opinion in Zimbabwe

Michael Bratton, Annie Chikwana, Tulani Sithole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The article asks: how do Zimbabweans assess economic conditions in their country? And how do they feel about the performance of political leaders? To summarise results, we find that Zimbabweans are deeply concerned about eroding standards of living but, paradoxically, are increasingly resigned to the dominance of the incumbent government. Against expectations, we find that the overall approval rating of the president increased between 1999 and 2004 to the point that the electorate is split down the middle. We explain this outcome mainly in terms of a squeeze on the media, by which the government has flooded society with official propaganda and denied opponents every opportunity to speak. While coercion causes some Zimbabweans to fear their government, and patronage selectively rewards others, we find that persuasion is by far the most important determinant of public opinion in Zimbabwe in 2004. In short, ideology works, especially if propagated through government-controlled media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-108
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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