Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cup half full, half empty?

Only half of adults in urban areas feel positive about the country and its future.

South Africans living in the major urban areas are in a funk. This is according to TNS Research Surveys which found that of the 2000 adults polled in the seven major metropolitan areas in June this year only 49% felt "positive about South Africa and its future."

This is down from the 60% who felt this way earlier this year.

This question was first
asked by TNS in 2004. In 2004 66% of respondents expressed optimism about the future of the country, in 2005 67%, in 2006 67%, and in 2007 66%.

Neil Higgs, Director of Innovation and Development at TNS, notes "for a number of years, optimism levels have shown remarkable robustness. However, for two successive readings, new lows have been reached, the June drop being the largest movement recorded for the measure.

Falls have occurred across all demographics. "The poll was conducted among a racially stratified sample of 1260 black adults, 385 whites, 240 coloureds and 115 Indians.

Racial minorities are the most demoralised about the future of the country. Among the white respondents polled 21% felt positive about South Africa, down from 31% in February (the previous low was 40%).

Only 32% of Coloured and 34% of Indian respondents expressed optimism in June, down from previous lows of 50%.

Since 2004 black respondents have generally expressed a greater degree of optimism than those from minority groups. Since mid-2004 the survey series found about three quarters of black respondents consistently saying they were were positive about the future of the country.

However, in the June poll only 63% of black respondents said they felt this way, down from 73% in February, and 78% in the middle of last year.

South Africans have been demoralised both by a downturn in the economy, as well as post-Polokwane political uncertainty.

According to TNS there was a dramatic drop in June in respondents "current and future perceptions of the economy in terms of job availability, business conditions, general economic conditions, prices and inflation, likely income, and the effects of AIDS and crime on the economy."

TNS's index of sentiment about the economy (MSI) dropped from 145 in November 2007 to 127 in February 2008 and 109 in June. This is the lowest score since October 2002.

According to Higgs "large drops were recorded for all race groups. However, the figures for whites and Indians/Asians reached new all-time lows."

Among respondents there is disillusionment with the old ANC leadership and a lack of faith in the new.

32% of respondents said that President Thabo Mbeki was doing a good job, the lowest rating he has received since mid-2002, and down from 54% in the middle of last year.

See Table 1. In June only 37% of respondents said that they thought Jacob Zuma was doing a good job as president of the ANC. Half of black respondents said they thought he was doing a good job, but only around 1 in 10 of the respondents from the racial minorities.

Higgs notes, "As the President's approval rating continues to fall, it is clear that, as yet, Jacob Zuma's rating is not yet rising to fill what may be becoming a perceived leadership vacuum."

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