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07 September 2010

Voices of the people: SASAS relaunched

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

The South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) is being relaunched at a seminar in Pretoria today.

    •    Visit the SASAS website
    •    Visit the seminar page
    •    Read the media advisory for the launch

New HSRC Press book on social attitudes to be launched in Pretoria

South African Social Attitudes – The 2nd Report: Reflections on the Age of Hope

Edited by Benjamin Roberts, Mbithi wa Kivilu and Yul Derek Davids and published by the HSRC PRESS

Fear of crime is not restricted to the white population, many youth are optimistic about the future and most South Africans are robustly committed to school integration. These are some of the findings revealed in the South African Social Attitudes – The 2nd Report: Reflections on the Age of Hope (HSRC Press), edited by Benjamin Roberts, Mbithi wa Kivilu and Yul Derek Davids and featuring contributions by a range of researchers and academics.

The South African African Social Attitudes (SASAS) series was conceived in 2002 as a sustained research project to provide long-term assessment of both change and continuity in public perceptions. The first volume was published by the HSRC Press in 2006. This second publication aims to continue the critical examination of attitudes and values held by ordinary citizens towards a wide range of social and political issues. These are explored against the backdrop of South Africa’s “Age of Hope”, as the country enters its second decade of democracy. While national pride and public marketing campaigns have taken a “Proudly South African” stance, there are also signs of national pessimism around issues such as service delivery and employment. The question is, are the voices of the people ultimately hopeful or despairing? Does society reflect or refute the notion of an Age of Hope?

For this second in the SASAS series, analysis is based on research done primarily in findings from 2003 – 2005, a period marked with some uncertainty and change. Thabo Mbeki was seeking a third term as president, the Schabir Shaik fraud trial was underway, Travelgate and Oilgate revealed government corruption, crime statistics were being questioned and the country’s HIV/AIDS programme was being criticised. In this environment, key attitudinal responses were collated by a broad range of citizens from around the country, covering topics such as safety, health, local government, schooling and religion.

The chapters second SASAS is divided into three thematic areas: race, class and politics; poverty, inequality and service delivery; and societal values.

The first section includes an examination of South African’s views on the trustworthiness of institutions, a look at feelings towards racial redress, public perceptions of local government, and youth attitudes. The second section tackles the tricky topic of service delivery, views on school integration and an exploration of child poverty. The third section looks at Christianity in South Africa, attitudes towards the environment, thoughts on work and organisations, and perceptions of crime.

Taken the context within which the study was conducted, the results are cause for both concern and encouragement. On the one hand, there has been an erosion of trust in public institutions and political actors, an increasing salience of issues of unemployment, HIV/AIDS and service delivery, and a growth in criticism of local government. On the other hand, as noted earlier, the country’s youth are not disengaged and apathetic, but resolutely optimistic about the future. And there has emerged a robust commitment to school integration.

Overall, based on the findings in this publication, it would be fair to say that South Africans have developed a mounting sense of uncertainty and anxiety over democracy, despite evidencing pockets of optimism in some areas. It will be interesting to mark how this changes – or not – in future SASAS studies. In its rigorous and detailed analysis, South African Social Attitudes Second Report: Reflections on the Age of Hope (HSRC Press) provides an in-depth and often fascinating exploration of how South Africans are feeling. As an ongoing research series, its findings are of immense value for policy makers, social students, academics and civil society as a whole.

South African Social Attitudes – The 2nd Report: Reflections on the Age of Hope is edited by Benjamin Roberts, Mbithi wa Kivilu and Yul Derek Davids and published by the HSRC Press. It will be launched on Tuesday 7 September 2010 at 3pm in the HSRC Video Conference Centre, 1st floor, Human Sciences Research Council Building, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. All are welcome to attend the launch. The co-editors of the volume, Ben Roberts, Dr Mbithi wa Kivilu and Yul Derek Davids are researchers based at the Human Sciences Research Council.

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