Nigerians give low marks to the country’s economy and political system

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Supporters of Nigeria’s ruling party All Progressives Congress applaud as President Muhammadu Buhari’s convoy leaves a campaign rally in Lagos on February 9. (Stefan Heunis / AFP / Getty Images)

Nigeria will be holding of presidential and legislative elections against a background of negative sentiment in the country about the state of the economy and the political system. These attitudes were evident in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2018.

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population, which is almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians. Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will run against several candidates including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), John Gbor of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Usman Muhammed of the Labor Party (LP) and others. Tensions in the country have increased in the last few weeks leading up to the elections due to Buhari’s controversial decision suspend the chief justice of the country.

These five graphics capture the mood of the Nigerian public on the state of their nation and the different attitudes of the Muslim and Christian populations.

1Nigerians dissatisfied with the way their <a class=democracy works” width=”200″ height=”449″ srcset=”https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png 402w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=134,300 134w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=143,320 143w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=180,405 180w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=200,449 200w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=260,583 260w, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FT_19.02.12_Nigeria_Nigeriansunsatisfied.png?resize=310,696 310w” sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px”/>Few Nigerians are satisfied with the state of their democracy. Only 39% of Nigerians are satisfied with the way democracy works in their country, while 60% say they are dissatisfied. This negative sentiment is similar to what was found in 2017, but improved slightly from 2013 when Goodluck Jonathan was president and 72% were dissatisfied with how democracy worked.

2Nigerians doubt their political systemMany Nigerians are skeptical of the country’s political and judicial systems. Almost six in ten (59%) say that the statement “elected officials care what ordinary people think” does not describe their country well. Furthermore, a majority of 57% believes that no matter who wins an election, things don’t change much for Nigerians.

About seven in ten Nigerians (72%) think the statement “most politicians are corrupt” describes their country well, and six in ten say it describes Nigeria “very well”. Always, a survey carried out in 2017 by Afrobarometer, an African research network, found that 54% of Nigerians agree that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

More than half (54%) do not think the justice system treats everyone fairly, according to the Centre’s survey. And according to Afrobarometer, a quarter of Nigerians do not trust the courts at all.

3Christians in Nigeria less satisfied with democracy than MuslimsThere is a large gap between Christians and Muslims in their view of the political system. Only 16% of Christians in Nigeria are satisfied with how democracy works in their country, while a large majority (83%) are dissatisfied. Meanwhile, 62% of Muslims are satisfied with the state of their democracy and 38% are dissatisfied.

Muslim satisfaction has declined slightly since 2017 (it was 68%) but is much higher than in 2013 (33%), when there was a Christian president. However, the share of Christians satisfied with democracy has slightly decreased since 2013 (22%).

4Big differences between Muslims and Christians on the views of the ruling APCOpinions on the two largest political parties vary greatly by religion. Both APC and PDP are popular among Nigerians, with preference rates of 50% and 57% respectively. By comparison, 28% of Nigerians rate the LP favorably and 24% have a favorable opinion of the APGA, although about a third did not give an opinion on either side.

Nigerian Muslims (75%) view Buhari’s CPA much more favorably than Christians (26%). Conversely, 62% of Christians and 51% of Muslims have a favorable opinion of the PDP. There are no differences between the two groups in their opinions on the other parties included in the survey.

5Positive economic sentiment on the rise since 2016More than half of Nigerians still describe the economy as bad, but economic sentiment has rebounded since the 2016 oil recession. In the summer of 2018, 54% of Nigerians rated the economic situation as “bad”, up from a peak of 71% in 2016. And 45% qualified their economic situation as “good” last year, an increase of 16 percentage points since 2016 (29%).

Muslims and Nigerian Christians are divided on perceptions of the economic situation; 62% of Muslims say the economic situation is good, while only 29% of Christians share this view.

Note: See full results (PDF) and methodology here.

Christine Tamir is a research analyst focusing on global migration and Hispanic trends at the Pew Research Center.


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