Timid Support in Nigeria for Women in Politics
A recent opinion survey in Nigeria conducted by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) reveals a sharp divide between men and women on attitudes towards women’s representation in high political positions. The survey examined Nigerian citizens’ support for women being elected as National Assembly representatives or as President of Nigeria. Survey results indicate a 51 percent majority of men would not vote for a woman as President even if she was as qualified as male candidates versus a 61 percent majority of women who would vote for a woman as President. Likewise, a 52 percent majority of Nigerian women prefer a woman to represent them at the National Assembly and a similar majority of men prefer a man to represent them. Only 20 percent of women and 27 percent of men say it would not make a difference to them. While significantly more women than men would vote for a woman as President, it is noteworthy that there is resistance to the idea of a woman President in Nigeria even among women: over a quarter (27%) of female respondents say they would not vote for a woman President even if she was as qualified as male presidential candidates.
Further on the issue of women’s political representation, survey respondents were asked if they favor or do not favor more women representation in the National Assembly given that women represent only 6 percent in the current Assembly. Responses reveal a clear gender divide with over two-thirds (68%) of women saying they are in favor of more representation while men are equally split between those in favor of more representation (44%), and those not in favor (44%), and the remaining 12 percent not giving an answer. These findings highlight important societal barriers where most men and a significant number of women continue to reject the view of women serving in high political positions.
The survey also assessed men and women’s preparedness to participate in the March 28 general elections in terms of their likelihood to vote and the adequacy of their electoral information. While, a majority of both men and women say they are likely to vote, significantly more men (66%) than women (55%) say they are very likely to vote in the presidential election. Similarly, significantly more men (53%) than women (44%) are very likely to vote in the National Assembly elections. Meanwhile, pluralities if not majorities of Nigerians still need more information on several key aspects of the electoral process just weeks before the elections, including perhaps most critically information on when to vote and on how to mark their ballot. It is noteworthy that for all aspects of the election, significantly more women than men need more information, indicating that the information gap is significantly larger for women. Even without addressing the range of gender-specific barriers to political participation, the data suggests that a gender gap in voter turnout is likely since without adequate voter information, women may not be motivated to participate and may not be able to make informed decisions when it is time to vote.
When examining Nigerian men and women’s civic engagement through taking part in different activities to express their views, the survey shows that in all areas of civic engagement, women consistently report lower rates of participation than men. The biggest gaps in participation between men and women are seen in attending community meetings and contacting or visiting a community leader.
Overall, only 39 percent of women, compared to 57 percent of men, have taken part in civic activities in the past, while a full 61 percent of women have never taken part in any civic activity to express their views or resolve an issue. This suggests that existing channels for civic engagement may not be sufficient or appropriate for allowing women to be effectively engaged. It would be useful to mitigate these barriers, especially for popular activities, such as community meetings.
The survey was implemented in mid-December 2014 during the countdown to the 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections. The sample size was 2,520 respondents 18 years or older.