Since the 2009 general election in South Africa there has been significant speculation about the electoral power of the over 16 million social grant beneficiaries. Equally controversial has been the issuing of food parcels by the government before local government by-elections in 2013. A quantitative study was undertaken in three poor communities in South Africa–Riverlea and Doornkop in Johannesburg and in Groblersdal in the Limpopo province to establish the voting behaviour of poor people (‘poor’ being defined in terms of income level). This article focuses mainly on the role that social grants and food parcels play in voting behaviour. Among other things, it was found that grant receipt has some influence on how people vote but that it is not the driving factor. Though the majority of respondents regard the handing out of food parcels before elections as ‘bribery’, over a quarter still indicated that they would vote for a party that gave them food parcels.