Harare – About 63% of Zimbabweans say they trust long-time President Robert Mugabe, a new national survey showed on Wednesday.
In results likely to be feted by Mugabe's government and greeted with some dismay by his critics, the survey showed that 70% of Zimbabweans living in rural areas say that they trust the 91-year-old leader "somewhat" or even "a lot" - despite the worsening economic situation.
The figure remains high at 50% in urban areas, which have traditionally been strongholds of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Significantly, opposition parties like the MDC currently enjoy much lower levels of trust.
"Only a third of the population trusts them", the findings say.
The survey was carried out by researchers Afrobarometer in partnership with Zimbabwe's Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI), which correctly predicted that Mugabe would win the 2013 presidential polls.
Afrobarometer said 2 400 adults were polled last November.
Also read: Mugabe's land reforms a ploy to buy votes - MDC
Women had slightly more trust in Mugabe than men, at 64% compared to 62%.
Lawyer Alex Magaisa said the results showed Mugabe had maintained his support base following the 2013 elections, which came after a four-year-long coalition government.
But he warned that those in Mugabe's Zanu-PF party hoping to push him out of power in the next elections in 2018 would likely now be disappointed.
"This survey result will be used as confirmation that President Mugabe is still popular and remains the right man for the job," Magaisa said in a blog post at newzimbabweconstitution.wordpress.com.
Magaisa is a former advisor to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who served as prime minister in the coalition.
Once the hope of around half of Zimbabwe's voting population, the MDC is seen by many as a shadow of its former self.
It has been weakened by splits, corruption allegations and, two and a half years ago, revelations about Tsvangirai's messy private life.